Monday, April 28, 2014

What kind of optimist are you?

Hello and happy Monday!

Last week I met (via email and internet) another LCSW, Andrea.  She shared with me her blog post from January where she referenced research on realistic vs idealistic optimism.
The idea as I read it is that people who are more realistic optimists are more successful than those that are idealistic.  It is an interesting distinction.  When I think about "why" behind pessimistic thinking I go back to the idea that it is about being prepared.  So many successful people in business are pessimists and the fact that they are always thinking about and planning for the worst case scenario helps them to handle challenges.  Being prepared goes back to our survival.  That being said, unfortunately those same people are prone to depression and negativity in other areas of their lives. 
I think about optimism and pessimism as the lens with which we see the world.  The lens needs to have some level of balance depending on the situation.  Any strength taken to an extreme ceases to be a strength and can ultimately be problematic.  Optimism is not an exception.  To an extreme one can find him or herself having unrealistic expectations and a lack of preparedness for things that can go wrong.
I have always been an optimist and I would have to admit not always realistic.  I married a pessimist and believe that as our marriage grew and we began to learn from each other, he started to see the world a bit more rosy and I started to see things from a more realistic point of view.  It's all about balance!  We both are much better off now then when we met.
I wanted to write about this information today because so many of us can become frustrated when we have unrealistic expectations and it isn't always so simple as "glass half full or glass half empty". 
We can be happy and optimistic while still being realistic.  Like most things in life, it is about balance.
Thank you Andrea for showing me your blog.
If you would like to check out Andrea's blog and the research findings you can go to the blog tab on her site and look for posting on January 20, 2014. Her website is
If you are seeing to increase your optimism or work on reducing stress, anxiety or depression - check out my website and please reach out any time!  I look forward to speaking with you!

Monday, April 21, 2014


Happy Easter for all of those celebrating this weekend!

A warm, sunny and beautiful weekend to celebrate Easter, attend Church and spend time with family...
For all the children I know - this weekend is the BEST!  Candy.  I think for some kids, Easter morning is better than Christmas morning.  Candy trumps toys in my house.
I have tried having our Easter Bunny bring toys, but it is just not the same - chocolate is key.
So what about those households where food allergies make having candy a scary and risky situation?

I attended an egg hunt that had peanuts and other nut candy hidden in the eggs.  As soon a I realized (prior to starting the egg hunt) - I thought it was time to make an exit.  I was there with two very excited kids.  One very allergic to any type of nut and peanut and one not. 

Interestingly my allergic child was perfectly fine with walking around and not picking up any eggs.  She decided to hang with her friends while they hunted and she would just enjoy being there.

Her brother was told he could collect eggs, but not take any home.  Anything with no nuts could be eaten at the park but anything else should be given to smaller children as we leave.
Well - that did not go over so well!  It took some comforting and consoling and reassuring that there was plenty of candy at home to make things ok...

I wondered why such different reactions?  Was it that the non allergic child is younger?  Is it that he does not want to be limited by someone else's allergy?  What was the difference?

As I thought about it, optimism came to mind.  Tomorrow I am giving a workshop on how to Increase Your Optimism at the Integrative Health Center so perhaps my presentation is in the back of my mind - however I believe it was more than that.

Optimism is defined so very many different ways.  One of my favorites is a quote I saw on facebook post by Positive Focus this week that said, "Optimist: Someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster it's a cha-cha" by Robert Brault.

Every event in our lives can be viewed through multiple lenses.  Which lens we chose makes all the difference in how we feel.  Food allergies bring on such anxiety. Every situation where there is food brings out potential for a reaction.  Like all others who deal with severe food allergies we have moments of anxiety and fear and frustration.  Many days we wish we could make it go away and that she could do and eat just like all of her friends.  But that is not an option.  Knowing that is not an option she has a choice to make.  Be sad and frustrated all the time or be happy about what she is blessed with.  That is exactly what happened at this egg hunt.  Seeing the hunt through the negative lens led to frustration on the part of the child told he could not bring candy home with him.  Seeing the hunt through a positive and optimistic lens allowed a little girl to safely enjoy some time outside in the sun with her friends searching for plastic eggs.  Picking them up or eating the candy - not so important.  What was important to her was being there and being safe.
She often tells me that she is grateful that her allergy has taught her to read labels because it makes her more aware of everything she puts in her body.  She is aware of food dyes and of fat and sugar and is just more educated in general about healthy eating.  That doesn't mean she doesn't eat junk - of course not.  Junk can taste really good :) - It just means she is aware and makes "safe" choices.

I wanted to tell this story because food allergies absolutely suck.  There is no doubt about it.  Fear and anxiety are natural. Simple things like birthday parties, egg hunts and other social events can turn into nightmares - however like anything else in life that isn't perfect - it does not need to define and consume us to the point that we do not enjoy what we do have and what we do get to do. 

Knowing how to be careful, read labels, use an epi and ask the right questions are very important things to know and to do.  However I believe very strongly that changing the lens we see situations is just as important in staying safe and healthy each day!

If you are a mom who has had anxiety over your child's food allergies, know you are not alone.  There are tons of resources out there to help you manage.  If you believe counseling or coaching (phone or in person) is something you would like to explore - please check out my website and reach out to me.  I am happy to set up some time to have a free phone consult to see if I can be of service to you.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mommy Moment....

Hello and happy Monday!

Last week I was honored to attend a speaker series to initiate the kickoff of B.I.G. (Believe Inspire Grow) NYC.  For any women business owners it is so worth checking out! :)

Anyway - there were two wonderful speakers and today I want to talk today about Katherine Dickson.  She is a successful actress who came to talk about overcoming obstacles and gratitude.  She spoke about multiple successes and multiple challenges she has overcome.  After only a few weeks of marriage to the love of her life she and her son and stepson were playing in a park when she suffered a severe head injury.  After waking up from a coma and a difficult journey to walk and talk and see - she found her self locked in a pattern of self pity.  Years were spent in pain physically and emotionally. Katherine's words were so moving and in a room full of women, not a dry eye... 

Then the moment that resonated so loudly with me.  Katherine said her teenage son had made the Jr. Olympics but did not want to compete.  She asked him why he didn't want to go and he said to her, You don't try, why should I?"  That was it, that was Katherine's moment she unpacked her bags from her honeymoon (yes 9 years later) and she started to make phone calls and rekindled her once successful career.  That moment she realized how her actions affected her children and she had a life changing moment.  Everything changed from that point on.

I was truly grateful to hear of her transformation and to have been given the opportunity to meet such a beautiful and inspiring woman!

This entry is called "mommy moment".  Why - Because as moms we all have moments where we realize that no matter what we say or how we parent our children the most influential lessons they get from us are from watching what we do - whether we like it or not.

The vast majority of us have not experienced the obstacles Katherine has in her life, yet we have all had those moments when our children do or say something that hits us like a ton of bricks.  They learned something from us that we did not want or expect.
It could be something little like when my daughter at age 2 cursed (appropriately I might add) when a car cut us off and I hit the brakes hard.  It made me realize that the potty mouth should be somewhat curbed... somewhat... I'm still working on that one.

Kindergarten meeting and the teacher tells me that my child is a "rule follower".  That is not a bad thing but like any strength, taken too far it can become problematic.  This is a big one for me.  I am honest to a fault and have a strong need to follow the rules.  I saw that trait in my child and realized that she is learning from me.  As proud as I am of the values I have taught her, I also know that taken to an extreme it can be problematic.  So when the teacher asked what my goals for her were that year I replied, "FUN".  I want her to learn to have fun.  Relax.  Not to take anything too seriously...  Things I needed to figure out as an adult. 

We all have mommy moments, big and small.  None of us are perfect, despite our need or want to be.  These mommy moments are beautiful gifts given to us to shine a light on something we may not have been able to quite see ourselves.

So I ask the moms out there - have you had a mommy moment? 
If so, how did that motivate you to make a change or turn it into a learning moment?
I would love to hear from you!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Day 1 :)

Hello and happy blog day 1! 

My name is Cara Maksimow and I am a clinical social worker, certified professional coach, public speaker and mom.  I practice positive psychology in my work and my life.  What that means is I want to help people increase their optimism which ultimately has potential to help people live happier, healthier, longer and more productive lives. 
That being said, this blog is a way for me to share ideas and thoughts on all things related to helping others to increase their optimism a little each day.  I hope to provide you with practical tools and information from things I read, my experiences and the experiences of others. 

Studies have shown that our genetics plays a role in our happiness, however a big chunk of our happiness has to do with how we see the world and interpret what is around us.  According to Sonja Lyubomirsky in The How of Happiness only 10% of our happiness comes from external factors.  That means how much money we have, where we live, how we look, how much we weigh - all those things we think will make us happy - they only account for a small part of it.

I must say, I often fell into that trap of "if I just get that promotion" or "if I just lose 10 more pounds" then "I will surely be happy".  I learned that it does not work that way.  Every situation and scenario can be viewed from multiple lenses.  Which lens you use has a lot to do with how you feel.
What lens are you using?
Something to think about for now. 
I plan to post weekly and would love to have you join me through this journey. :)
To check out events and other happenings or to find out more about working with me, check out my website.