TBT – Go easy on yourself

Throwback Thursday – an edited post from December 2017 that feels timely. 

This time of year can be difficult, especially for anyone dealing with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that may originate from the lack of light and lack of fresh air.

Symptoms I experience can include anxiety, the blues, and changes in my mood or appetite. Many of us have increased cravings for carbohydrates, and we may feel sluggish or have difficulty concentrating.

For several years, I have used exercise, dietary strategies such as a vitamin D supplement in the morning and magnesium at night. I try to get enough vegetables for their anti-oxidant properties and fiber, but in Minnesota nothing is fresh this time of year, so it can be difficult.

Getting enough healthy fats in my diet more recently has been a wonderful benefit to my health overall. I have learned more and more on how balancing our brain chemistry with healthy fats is really important.  “The Chemistry of Calm” by Dr. Henry Emmons, contains some wonderful advice there on how to overcome anxiety. He presents the information from both Western and Eastern traditions. I strongly encourage you to check it out if you want more scientific background on drug-free ways to overcome anxiety.

I still struggle with insomnia periodically, usually when the seasons change and/or when I am under stress. I know how important sleep can be for good healthy, so I try valiantly to get more, and sometimes it still eludes me.

compassion
Photo credit link

Over the years, I have learned some strategies which help. It is a learning process, and I have to accept that it takes some time to change old habits. I am undoing a pattern that was established (and possibly reinforced) for 25-30 years. I may not unlearn it overnight. But due to the remarkable neuro-plasticity of our brains, we are capable of training ourselves out of old patterns.

The biggest factor to remember is to have compassion for ourselves, and not to label ourselves as “anxious” or to consider ourselves flawed in any way. Instead of saying, “I am an anxious person” try instead: “right now I am struggling with anxiety and I am learning how to manage it.” Thus, the condition is temporary and not a part of our identity.

It is important not to identify too strongly with any label, as this may convince us we a permanent, unalterable condition. The truth is that we have far more capacity for change than any of us realize. And this learning how to manage our struggles is where wisdom is born. Nothing is wrong with us. This is the human condition.

About half of our life may be happy or joyful (or maybe slightly more). But about half of or life will be negative emotions. This contrast is what makes life so rich and interesting. If we can go easy on ourselves, realize that sadness and feeling down sometimes are a part of life, then we can truly appreciate the joyful moments.

Compassion for ourselves and for other people is really the engine that helps us live a good life. We sometimes have that inner critic that resists compassion, questioning if we deserve it, speculating that we do not. If we come from religious backgrounds where original sin was a big part of the emphasis, this may be harder for us.

It may take some time and practice to cultivate compassion for ourselves. But it is possible. And with this self-compassion comes the ability to have compassion for others as well. In this time of dark, cold, weather, that can go a very long way.

If you are struggling with SAD, anxiety or depression, please get help from a trained mental health professional, and/or seek support. It is not a time to “go it alone” when you are dealing with this stuff. Sometimes families are not as understanding, so try to find someone who can help you get the support you need.

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

Healing Night

This weekend I am reading a book that is related to the writing contract I have on the topic of sleep. I am still incredulous that the universe saw fit to send me paid work on a topic that fascinates me. I am embracing it, and really letting myself delve fully into the topic.

I finished the first phase of the work yesterday, the preliminary reference list. This week I ordered this book by Rubin Naiman, PhD because it has been on my “wish list.” Since it was directly related to this writing contract, I splurged and went for it, despite trying to be mindful of my book budget. 

I am so happy I did. What a beautiful book. I look forward to finishing it this weekend. But I shall try not to stay up late reading as I did last night (ironically enough). Here’s my favorite quote in the book so far: 

If God, angels, or extraterrestrials were indeed monitoring us from above, the most profound change they would have witnessed on this planet since it’s creation is the metastatic illumination of our nights. We have responded to this quieting offer of night with an innervating program of excessive artificial illumination. 

From Chapter 1 of Rubin Naiman’s Healing Night

Yes. Naiman’s main argument is that we undervalue our nights and our night consciousness. This has in turn impaired our sleep and our dreaming, to the detriment of our physical and spiritual health. I am so intrigued and fascinated because this resonates for me. Night and shadow are part of our rhythms as humans. We ignore them at our peril.

Have a fine weekend, friends. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of rest. Savor your sleep. Enjoy that beautiful process of snuggling down into a warm bed at night. 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Accessing your dreams

Lately I have been getting more regular and deeper sleep. I have made a commitment to allow my subconscious to work on things for me while I am in dreamland.

It can be a very incredible thing to write down my dreams, and consider what they are telling me. Since I no longer use an alarm to wake up, and tend to drift awake naturally, I remember my dreams so much more often. I am pretty convinced I am accessing a more intuitive part of my consciousness. It is really fascinating. But some of them need a little more processing before I share them here. 😉

Do you write down your dreams? What are they telling you? 

imagine and dream.jpg

Happy weekend, all.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Wellness Wednesday – morning light baths

Hello Friends,

It is Wednesday and this is a post to encourage you to get outside early in the day for some light. For those of us in Minnesota, we enjoyed a gloriously sunny day yesterday, a welcome change from the cloudy gloom of last week.

I got out for a run, but a walk is just as good. Getting out in the fresh air is good for your soul, your body and your mind. Absorbing some natural light, especially in the morning or early in the day is especially helpful for setting your body’s natural “clock” of waking and sleeping.

As it gets a bit darker earlier this time of year, it can be challenging to get out for some natural light. I like taking a break over the lunch hour for a little walk if possible, especially if I have been at my desk or not moving in the morning.

Philips goLite BLU
This is the Philips light I use.

For those of us who struggle with winter blues a bit, augmenting our natural light for the day may be necessary with light therapy. I use a Philips goLite BLU device for only 15 minutes in the mornings and it seems to help. Very important not to use these devices late in the day though, as they can disrupt natural melatonin production.

Equally important in the evening is to indulge in some natural darkness and not to expose yourself to much artificial light. Put the phone away an hour or two before bed. Log off of the laptop. Read an old-fashioned book. Dim the lights at home if you can and relax into the space before bedtime.

There is more darkness than light this time of year in Minnesota. I like to be mindful of the seasons and allow for more rest, respecting the rhythm of nature.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com