My life-saving husband

This post is dedicated to my awesome and life-saving husband who, last year on this date insisted that I go to the hospital when I had some unexplained abdominal pain.

As it turned out, I had appendicitis and the very kind staff at Regions Hospital take wonderful care of me, scheduling me for surgery later that night. Hubby had realized that I needed help, but I was stubborn at first, telling him to go to work and that I would be fine. (“It’s just a gas pain,” I told myself.)

Cristy and Clem with the Tower Bridge in London
Hubby and me with the London Bridge in the background – September 18, 2018

I thought I may have had food poisoning, since I had just returned the night before from a work trip to Mexico. But no, I could not get myself off the couch to even make coffee that morning. I still felt like crap at noon, so I texted my husband and tell him I could not find my doctor’s phonenumber.

Clearly my brain was clouded over. He told me he was coming home right away to take me to the emergency room. I am so glad he did. Once I was evaluated and they knew what was going on, and about half an hour after I had some fairly strong pain medicine, I was chatting away and feeling SO much better.

So this is a post of gratitude for my dear husband, who is a most awesome and level-headed human being. I am blessed that the universe saw fit to connect us. I got a new lease on life after that experience. It helped me realize I needed to surrender to rest when my body needed to heal.

My parents developed a lot of love and gratitude for my husband as well. Considering my father almost died of an appendicitis, both he and my Mom saw hubby as their hero. He is definitely one of mine as well.

 

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

 

Outsourcing our dream-time?

I am researching sleep this week as part of a project contract. I finished Dr. Rubin Naiman’s book Healing Night and it really got me thinking about the hazards of our dream-deprived (REM state) sleep habits. 

Recent CDC reports indicate that over a third of U.S. adults receive less than the 7 hour minimum recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. As a matter of fact, that range is actually more like 7-9 hours and is highly individualized. So I suspect probably over half of the population is not regularly receiving a necessary component of a healthy life.

Unfortunately, much of the science focuses on quantity and not always on quality of sleep that people are receiving. I get it. I like numbers. I actually track the sleep I receive every night in an attempt to understand what influences and affects it. Generally I know I want more of it, and feel fabulous when I get at least 8 hours.

But quality matters too, and when we do not receive enough deep sleep, which allows us to get into the REM (rapid eye movement or dream) state of sleep at least a 2-3 times in a night, we become dream-deprived. This is a state that can lead to depression when prolonged and also has links to cancer. 

Further, it can interfere with our creativity and vitality in life. Ironically enough we have myriad entertainment options outside us, “Dream Works” and other sources of artificial dreams that we indulge in to escape our lives.

I started to wonder: 

Would we need to escape our lives if we felt refreshed and allowed for our proper “dream time” at night? Would we need to rely on external entertainment if we felt our creativity were not drained from sleepiness and fatigue? 

To me it is a troubling proposition, but all too often a reality if we feel our lives are over-scheduled and that we must sacrifice some sleep in order to attend to our “to do” lists. My advice: get your sleep if you can. Do not sacrifice your precious dream time, or outsource it to the entertainment sources. It is all yours, it is necessary and it is sacred. 

I shall write more about the topic this week. It is on my mind, and I am an even stronger believer after doing more research. I hope to convince you as well if you are not there yet. 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Wellness Wednesday – step away from the desk

For those of you out there who work at “desk jobs” where you spend a lot of time at a computer on a typical day, this one is for you.

There are days when I am at a keyboard for a long time. Whether doing research for a client, or writing or emailing or on a teleconference, it can mean long hours of being in one position or just sitting. Most of the time, I am restless enough that sitting for more than 45-60 minutes is impossible. I get up, walk around, get some tea, stretch, take a few deep breaths.

It can be harder when you are in an office, or a space without as much privacy. When I worked at an office, there were long hallways where I could get up and take myself for a walk. I tend to drink a fair amount of water and tea in a typical day. So getting up to go to the bathroom could be a mini-break. 

Getting up and taking a break has some great benefits. For one, you will get some circulation to your brain and body. Sitting for long periods is hard on your body, so standing now and then is not a bad idea. Some people like standing desks, and I used to use one of these occasionally. For about half an hour twice a day or so I would elevate the desk (especially during conference calls, which could make me a bit edgy) and try to adopt a good posture for standing. Or I would pace a bit in and around my cube. Fortunately it did not seem to disrupt my coworkers. 

Another benefit is that you might use your break as an opportunity to make a transition between projects. I am typically juggling anywhere from 3 to 7 projects at one time. It can be difficult to pull my mind from one topic to another. So a mindful break for 10-15 minutes can be helpful to allow a “rest and digest” of the item I just finished before moving on to the next task or project.

Now that I work at home much of the time, I find that scheduling a mid-morning dance class or a mid-day yoga break can be a great opportunity to move and get away from the desk. I typically return refreshed and with new vigor toward whatever project I face. Getting out for some fresh air can be great: just a 10-20 minute walk has benefits. Since it has been a bitter cold in MN this week, I have not wanted to do that so much…

How often do you get up from your desk? Do you have particular habits that help you remember to do this at least once every 2 hours? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Wellness Wednesday – rest and digest

Now that the excitement of this midterm election has come to a close, it is time to rest and digest. After all the “aerobic” energy of the campaign and election season, and as we process the results, we must enter a season of pausing and reflecting.

I am relieved this election cycle is over. Some of the returns have yet to be finalized but I am happy to see that the turnouts were high, and more women were voted into office than ever before.

Rest and digest.jpgThough I did not get to bed very early because I was still watching election returns, I know I will need some down time to recover this week. I identify as an introvert, so I am aware of my need for more down time than the average person. I have found that if I approach life in terms of cycles of intense activity followed by adequate rest, I am able to make better decisions for the long-term.

Maybe it is a product of age or maturity but I feel like it is easier to see the big picture than it used to be. I recognize that it is necessary to regroup and recharge between the intervals of intensity. As it turns out, this is how we best deal with stress in our lives. Stress in itself is not bad, and is in fact necessary in a healthy life.

But chronic and unrelenting stress for long periods take a toll on our bodies, our immune systems and our mental health as well. So take a break, gather your energy, allow some time for reflection and recovery. We will live and be stronger in case we need to “fight” another day for important causes that matter to us.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Wellness Wednesday: Avoid energy vampires

Happy Halloween!

Today seems like the perfect day to cover the topic of energy vampires. When you first read the title, did you get an image in your mind of anyone in particular in your life? Or an activity that can feel like a “vampire” – sucking the life-blood or energy out of you?

In my experience people or activities can function in ways that give us energy, or sometimes deplete energy. Sometimes this effect is not a result of the person specifically, but perhaps some thoughts we have about the person. For example, we all know that person who constantly complains about their lives. Nothing ever goes right for them. They are victims and life is unfair.

dracula
Photo credit link

When we allow some compassion for them, acknowledging their sadness or distress, sometimes it can feel like they “feed” off our sympathy and continue to engage in their sad soliloquy. Other times, we want to cheer them up, so we do a “Tigger/Eeyore” type of interaction, which makes neither person feel better in the end. For me, I allow for empathy, but also acknowledge to myself that I am not the cause of their distress. While I may want to alleviate their suffering, sometimes it is better just to be a compassionate witness, and then move on.

Some activities can feel like energy vampires as well. For me, shopping for clothes has always been an energy-draining prospect. I don’t enjoy it, and I order nearly everything online. Sometimes I do need to go out and shop, but I find myself much happier when I minimize that activity. I also find it easier on the wallet not to shop for things I do not need!

What I find is that when I fill my time with people and activities that increase my energy, I have a lot less time for the others. It may not be possible to avoid them entirely. But it is important to make space for the vitality that comes from being around people, ideas, and activities that energize rather than drain.

Consider the people who fill you with energy, or the activities that bring you joy. How can you spend more time with these people, and do more of these activities? You may need to get creative with this question. I dare you to have fun with it.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Farewell, with gratitude

On Monday I learned of the passing of Earl Bakken, co-founder of Medtronic, and inventor of the first battery-powered, wearable pacemaker.

I worked with Medtronic for 11+ years, and I got to see firsthand the commitment of so many people to the mission: to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. Earl had endless creativity and persistence around the invention of technologies that could help physicians treat their patients.

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Cristy with Earl Bakken. Photo taken August 2009 at the Mission and Medallion ceremony. 

For many years, there was an annual “mission and medallion” ceremony where new employees would learn more about the mission and history of the company. We were “inducted” into the Medtronic way, and the important focus on quality and a patient-centered culture.

I used to love the annual holiday party and employee meeting that Bakken implemented, where we would hear from patients who had received devices, and the difference in their quality of life (or in some cases, life itself). It was moving to hear stories of real patients and to connect with the mission on that level. In clinical research there can be a lot of bureaucratic processes to enable to get things done, because of regulations. Keeping our focus on the patients served always kept us striving toward excellence and quality, despite the challenges.

Earl Bakken was a role model and a humble leader in his 40 years at the helm of Medtronic. He hired good people and got out of the way to let them do their jobs, said Earl Hatten (employee #8 of the company that now employs 84,000 people). After he left Medtronic, he stayed involved in many philanthropic endeavors. His focus was on enabling people to live full lives, not just implanting devices.

I am honored to have been part of the company he co-created, and to have shared in that journey for a substantial part of my career. I am grateful for the impact and influence Earl Bakken had on so many people, employees, patients and communities.

Thank you, Earl. Your legacy lives on through the dedicated work that continues today.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Wellness Wednesday – healthy boundaries

It is Wellness Wednesday! The question for the day is this:

Do you consciously set healthy boundaries in your life and work?

I only recently started understanding what good boundaries are for me, and how to say a courteous “no” to certain requests when appropriate. We are wired for connection, and this means we often strive to please other people, not out of any weakness on our part. This is part of the human condition, and how we survived as a species, through relationships and connections.

The problem comes in when we do not see how the multiplying complexity of our social platforms and our networks creates an ever larger amount of choices and opportunities. That can be a blessing. But it can also have a cost, in terms of our overall productivity and focus on the things are the most relevant to us. Do less, but better (as Greg McKeown would say).

Wellness Wednesday

My need for regular solitude and time to think and reflect sometimes comes into conflict with my desire for input and learning, for example. Often I must put some constraints around the input, whether through books, podcasts or audio books.

I have learned that adding some constraints to my schedule, such as when I will meet with people or how many calendar items I will schedule in a given week, helps me be more productive with my time. In my previous position, when I was working in a corporate environment, it helped to block off some time for planning and thinking. Otherwise, I was at the mercy of others dictating my calendar.

It was harder in the days when I was traveling to put constraints on my hours because I often wanted to take advantage of the time to meet with people locally. But at the same time, I learned that running myself ragged did not increase my productivity at all. In fact, it usually led to consequences such as less quality sleep and less creativity about problem-solving.

It can be a tricky balance. Some people have an easier time with boundaries at work but home is the place where the requests can feel mandatory. I am interested in your experience with this idea, and where you find it most challenging.

What can you do to set healthy boundaries to fulfill your needs for rest, creativity and play outside of work and family obligations?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Light a candle – my tidying festival has begun

On Monday my appointment for the morning had to reschedule, so I found myself with an unexpected chunk of time without something specific planned.

I have been putting off the task of tidying my office/spare room, mostly because dislike tasks like this. But also because it seems so tedious and annoying. But lately I have been suffering from a lack of ability to find things quickly that I need. So I know I was overdue for another “KonMari” festival.

Marie Kondo describes in her book “the life changing magic of tidying up” how the act of tidying must first begun with thorough discarding, all at once. She approaches the act of tidying as a special event that can take up 3-6 months depending on how much stuff we have and need to discard. I believe it.

About a year and a half ago in the Spring, I really worked at this, clearing out my entire closet and working my way through most of my wardrobe. It felt great, and I got rid of so many things I never wore, or seldom wore. Her criteria for keeping things: if it sparks joy, keep it. If not, discard it. 

Clothes on floor

I began in the “correct” order as she describes, and put all of my shirts and blouses on the floor of the room. Clearly she does not have cats at home… that has a hazard for certain types of clothing when you do not want cat fur on everything. But I am including a picture so you can get an idea of how bad it was to start.

A lot of things had to go, but I only started with the “tops” category today, and I am planning to work through her list all week, spending at least 2 hours a day tidying. Today I spent about 4 hours, but I must say once I made all of those choices and then put things away, I was feeling really exhausted.

So many decisions! Oy!

Candles

You minimalists have the right idea! More stuff equals more stress. By having less stuff, and minimizing my decision fatigue, and lessen the time I spend looking for stuff I cannot find. I hope this helps to optimize my focus at home, something we “work at home” folks truly need.

But I like the idea of approaching this project as a one-time special event, and treating it with the sacred process that it is. I decided to light some candles when I started to make it more of a ceremony. It definitely helped. Let’s see if I can sustain the mood and keep this going tomorrow. Wish me luck!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com