I had to share this post because Julie speaks to many of the issues I have experienced in my past struggles with food and diets. I love her notion of being curious rather than ashamed of our appetites and preferences. Treating our bodies with compassion and respect has more positive results than continuing the war with ourselves by dieting.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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?
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.
Though 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.