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What’s Your Story?

 

During a mindfulness meditation class at the Council on Aging in January, we were encouraged to let go of our storyline.

This is a very powerful exercise! The instructor used her own story as an example. Her son had been killed in a tragic accident. She was so consumed by grief that she told herself, “I’ll never be happy again.” She really believed that she would never, ever be happy again, so completely devastating was her loss. And, for a while, she did manage to never feel happy.

One day she was talking to a seriously ill cancer patient who was trying in spite of everything to live as full a life as possible. The patient said, “I am not my disease,” meaning that there was more to her than the cancer.

Our instructor thought about that for a moment, and it resonated—she was not her condition, either. As much as she missed her son, there was more to her than her grief. 

That’s when she took up meditation, and she learned that in letting go of that story she was telling herself (“I will never be happy again”) and being fully present in the moment with whatever came up—even when what came up was absolute gut-wrenching pain—she could, in fact, find a way to make peace with her new reality. She could allow the grief to happen in some moments, but also allow happiness to happen in other moments.

I see people in my practice every day who cling to a storyline that interferes with their ability to be truly healthy and vibrant. A common one is, “I’m just getting old and falling apart with age.” Another one is, “I can’t relax. I’ve always been stressed out and I don’t know how to be any other way.” Some people own their condition so fully, it’s almost the first thing they want people to know about them. “I have __________ (a bad back, high blood pressure, etc.). It runs in my family. It is what it is.”

Sometimes we have conditions that do run in families and progress despite our best efforts. Still, I would argue that there’s always SOMETHING we can do to improve our situation. By contrast, if we allow our storyline to inform our behavior, it becomes self-limiting and reinforces a negative outcome. Imagine a person who says, “I have arthritis in my back and hips and there’s nothing I can do about it,” compared to a person who says, “I experience pain, and some days are worse than others, but I know I can moderate it by maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding foods that cause inflammation, and doing appropriate exercise.”

It can be hard to let go of our storyline. The first story I had to let go of in my meditation class was, “I’m so bad at meditating!” I have to re-let go of that one almost every time I sit down to practice!! It’s OK if we have to remind ourselves and make many attempts to release our negative self-talk.

During mindfulness meditation, it’s particularly important to detach from all our preconceived ideas and just be fully present without judgment. But there are other times when telling ourselves a story actually can be beneficial! How much better will a presentation go if a person’s storyline is: “I’ve got this, I know my stuff!” 

I often tell myself, “I move through the world with ease and grace,” because of the wonderful, late Louise Hay and her book, “You Can Heal Your Life,” and her adamant belief in positive affirmations. (In this case, if I remember correctly, she had some kind of pain but she didn’t want a limp to exacerbate it. So if she felt herself favoring one side, she straightened up and simply said, “I move through the world with ease and grace”—and it did lessen the discomfort.) I think of it as I’m driving as well—“I move through the world with ease and grace,” and therefore I will not be involved in an accident or be bothered by a bit of unexpected congestion. 

I once met a law enforcement officer who worked in SWAT, and he told me that every day, every time he faced a potentially dangerous situation, he repeated to himself again and again: “I will survive no matter what. I will survive no matter what.” That was his storyline, and his mindset of determination probably saved his life many times.

Every day we can choose to let go of storylines that are holding us back, and choose positive affirmations instead. Like these, again from Louise Hay: “Life supports me in every possible way. I now choose to release all hurt and resentment. I am welcoming happiness into my life. I am surrounded by love. All is well.”

May all be truly well in your world!

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Maintaining a Healthy Brain


Exciting new research in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease suggests that even if a person is predisposed genetically to these conditions, it may be possible to prevent or at least delay the damaging changes from happening to our brains.

The key is prevention—working to change the progress of disease before symptoms even occur. Similar to heart disease and diabetes, we’re learning that lifestyle choices can delay the onset and minimize risk and severity.

There are only a few Alzheimer’s prevention clinics in the US currently since “prevention” is a new idea. They use technology, problem-solving tests, and blood work to assess the ABCs of Alzheimer’s prevention. A is “anthropometrics”—things like body fat, lean body mass, muscle strength, waist measurement and more. B is blood biomarkers—all the standard blood work plus tests for inflammatory and genetic markers that increase risk. C is cognition, measuring thinking skills and mental flexibility.

Some risk factors are beyond our control: genetic predisposition, gender (women are at a higher risk), age; but the exciting learning has been in just how much our lifestyle choices can affect our outcome. Modifiable risk factors include what we eat, how much we eat (abdominal fat raises our risk threefold!), how we sleep, our blood pressure, our overall fitness level.

Here are the things the Weill Cornell’s Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic recommends we start doing right now to lower our risk:

  • Get our baseline numbers for things like cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose, blood pressure, body-mass index and waist circumference.
  • Take a cognitive test. There’s a 15-minute “SAGE” test we can do at home; for a link, go to alzu.org.
  • Keep our muscle mass. We lose muscle over the years if we don’t work to keep it. Most experts recommend a combination of aerobic and resistance/weight training for best results.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight, especially carrying extra abdominal fat, increases our risk for Alzheimer’s and other medical conditions.
  • Eat “green, lean and clean.” Brains benefit from a plant-heavy diet (veggies, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds) with lean protein (especially fish). Extra-virgin olive oil is their recommended go-to dietary oil.
  • Eat fatty fish twice a week: salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, lake trout or sardines.
  • Cut out evening snacking. At least a few times a week, try not to eat for 12-14 hours between dinner and breakfast. At least cut out carbs to encourage the body to burn stored fats.
  • Get some good quality shut-eye. Plan for at least 8 hours of sleep per night; turn off all devices for 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime.
  • Put some downtime on our to-do list. Every 4 1/2 years of work stress equates to a year of brain aging! Things like yoga, acupuncture, and regular vacations help. (I would add massage the reflexology, among other things!)
  • Find joy and connection with others. Hobbies and friendships can both relax and challenge our brains.
  • Play music. There’s a lot of new research pointing out the benefit of music to brain health. Listening to music is good, but making music is even better. Learning ukulele is achievable for most people, and more towns (St. Augustine among them!) have regular jam sessions for ukulele enthusiasts, which adds a social element as well.
  • Keep up with dental, vision and hearing health. Untreated tooth and gum problems cause inflammation that can lead to other complications. Vision and hearing loss can result in social isolation.
  • Don’t smoke. 
  • Consider genetic testing, if you believe that knowledge is power. There is no test that says definitively whether we will get Alzheimer’s, but if we find out that we are at risk genetically, it might motivate us to try that much harder to stave it off with lifestyle changes.
  • Join a clinical trial. If we want to take part in studies that might lead to a cure, we can search for studies at clinicaltrials.gov. In June, the Alzheimer’s Association is funding the largest ever lifestyle study on preventing cognitive decline. Learn more at alz.org/us-pointer.

Source: “Cheater’s Guide to Beating Alzheimer’s” by Paula Spencer Scott, “Parade Magazine,” April 8, 2018

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Reflexology

Why I Love to Travel

 

As I write this, I’m recovering from a day of travel. I guess we need to be careful when wishing for more hours in the day, because yesterday—with the time change from Ireland to the US—we added five hours, and spent most of them laying over in JFK. We were awake for almost 24 hours straight!

So, I’m tired and my body is not sure what to make of all this messing around with circadian rhythm. My work schedule was crazy before my trip, and it will be crazy for a few weeks after. Similarly, it’s challenging to get the household ready for me to be gone, and to restore some semblance of order upon my return.

Still, I think it’s totally worth it. I visited southwest Ireland with a friend who really knows how to pick interesting places to stay and sites to see and doesn’t mind driving on the “wrong” side of very narrow, twisty roads.

We saw some of the most amazing wonders. Ireland is hilly and rocky, and green and full of sheep and ancient ruins. There are beautiful beaches and dramatic cliffs and glacial lakes and quaint little towns, and innumerable pubs filled with the friendliest people, the warmest fires, and the tastiest soup you’ll ever encounter.

And seeing and experiencing all of that is phenomenal. But I think what I like equally is the opportunity to expand my perspective. To step away from what is familiar, give myself a chance to reflect—and just be—and allow myself to absorb whatever a conversation or a cultural escapade might reveal.

Here are just a few of the takeaways from my latest adventure:

Many, many people of the world live in very humble abodes, and they are grateful to have them. I am embarrassed by the times I have felt shame for not “keeping up with the Joneses” who have big, fancy houses. There’s definitely something to be said for keeping things simple, living within our means, and not being greedy with resources. Many Americans live excessively it seems to me.

In general, people in other countries have a better grasp of what is going on in the world than we do. They don’t have the arrogance of believing that the only stuff that matters is what’s going on in their own country.

Ireland seems like it is not an easy place to live. The terrain is rugged, the weather is punishing. There are only so many jobs. It’s not easy to grow food there. One tour guide suggested that while Ireland enjoyed a brief period of great prosperity, it did not last; and that he was glad actually because Ireland is at its best when it’s poor. That’s when people pull together and enjoy the most camaraderie. I think we have lost that in our country, that sense of shared experience.

When you visit a place with many days of cold wind, overcast skies, and drizzle, it really makes you appreciate our many days of warmth and abundant sunshine.

Travel reinforces for me an attitude of gratitude. I’m grateful for a safe journey. I’m grateful to be home—both in my own dwelling and in my beautiful hometown. I’m grateful to be returning to a happy life—seeing my garden again, and family, and clients and friends. I’m grateful to be able to add this voyage and this viewpoint to the resumé of being me.

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

What Are Our Feet Trying to Tell Us?

 

 

Sometimes when I work on people’s feet, they’ll ask me “what does that mean?” if a particular area feels tender or extra sensitive.

All I can say is that it’s a sign of stress: either stress to that area of the foot itself or stress to the part of the body that the reflex point in the foot is related to. (Either way, it’s good to work on it!) Sometimes the client can kind of figure out what might be going on in their feet and/or in their body’s overall health.

I’m not able to diagnose. But I am continually astounded at how interconnected and fascinating we are anatomically—from our feet all the way up to our brains!

Along those lines (pun intended!) an article recently caught my attention, outlining several bodily conditions that might show symptoms specifically in the feet.

Spasms (or “foot cramps”). Muscle cramps can be a sign that there’s a deficiency in your body. Sometimes spasms are caused by dehydration when your cells aren’t getting enough water/oxygen. It could also indicate an imbalance of electrolytes or nutrients (calcium or potassium, for example). Cramps can be caused by overexertion and lack of stretching, poor footwear choices, or even circulatory problems.

Enlarged big toe. Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis and can cause the big toe to become red, warm, swollen and painful. Gout occurs when too much uric acid builds up in the bloodstream. This inflammation often occurs in the big toe and can flare up overnight. Risk factors include genetics, a diet high in purines (meats and seafood, for example), alcohol consumption, being overweight, certain medications (such as diuretics), recent trauma, and some other health conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, and hypothyroidism.

Cold feet. A person who has perpetually cold feet might have poor circulation, diabetes, an under-active thyroid, or anemia. In a more severe case, when cold feet change color from red to white to blue, it could be a sign of Raynaud’s disease—when nerves overact to cold and cause a narrowing of the blood vessels in the feet (or hands).

Swollen feet. Swelling can be a sign of various health problems, some potentially serious. Poor circulation/heart problems, kidney or liver disease, deep vein thrombosis (blood clots), lymphatic concerns and cellulitis can cause swollen feet. It’s a good idea to seek a medical evaluation and not dismiss swelling if it’s severe or if it happens often.

Spoon-shaped toenails. Nails that are soft and sort of scooped out with a depression usually are a sign of a nutritional deficiency—too little or too much iron. It can also be associated with heart disease and hypothyroidism.

Yellow toenails. Nails turn yellow from conditions like infection and fungus, rheumatoid arthritis, jaundice/liver problems, lung issues/breathing problems and even sinusitis. If you have a sudden change in the color or texture of your nails, seek medical attention.

Tingling or numbness. Circulatory problems, peripheral nerve damage, an impinged nerve, multiple sclerosis and a range of other ailments can lead to numbness, tingling or “pins and needles” in the feet. Like swelling, this symptom is not something to take lightly if it persists.

Achy joints. Pain in the toe joints is usually a sign of local injury or trauma or a malformation in the bones of the foot like a bunion or hammertoe. But it can also be a sign of something systemic like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

Drop foot. If someone has difficulty lifting the front part of their foot, they could have a condition called drop foot—which is indicative of an underlying muscular, neurological or anatomical problem. Nerve or muscle weakness/damage in the leg, hip or spine can cause the foot to drag when walking. A combination of therapies is used to try to correct the problem including a brace, nerve stimulation, chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy or surgery.

Lingering sores. If you have sores that don’t heal, or you have an injury you didn’t feel or treat that led to a more severe wound, you might have nerve damage to the feet caused by diabetes. Nerve damage, or neuropathy, results in being unable to feel injuries, and when they go unnoticed, even little boo-boos like blisters can lead to bigger issues like ulcers and gangrene. Dry, cracked, peeling skin, calluses and poor circulation in the feet can all be signs of diabetes.

Our feet can tell us a lot about our health! We owe it to ourselves to keep our feet and our whole system as healthy as possible. Regular foot reflexology sessions can help!

Source: https://ia.meaww.com/read/health/10-things-your-feet-are-trying-to-tell-you-about-your-health

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy &Reflexology

Healthy Communication

 

If there’s one thing virtually everyone can agree on these days, it’s that our country feels very angry. We are not only divided in our views, but we are at each others’ throats.

I saw a headline the other day that read, “Can Democracy Survive the Internet?” How ironic that we live in this information age, when almost all the world’s knowledge is literally at our fingertips, and yet we are acting less enlightened than ever. People seem to use this magnificent resource to further bolster whatever view they already hold. We dig in with emotional attachment rather than being truly open to new ideas.

How can we ever hope to solve the challenges we face if we won’t even listen to each other with open minds? How can we heal if we won’t give the “other side” any credit for having intelligence, for having values, for wanting to solve the same problems we want to solve (just with a vastly different strategy perhaps)?

It feels like we all need to collectively take a deep breath (get out of fight-or-flight mode!), and assess whether being at odds all the time is really working for us. Maybe it’s time we revisit cooperation, respect, compassion if not understanding, and—at the very least—demand that both/all parties be reasonable.

How? Here are some ideas.

We must let go of all-or-nothing, black-or-white thinking. It’s very limiting. Consider this: are you a good person or a bad person? How about the person you’re “debating”—are they are a good person (genius) or a bad person (idiot)? We all can drive each other nuts, and we ALL also have some redeeming qualities. Liberals don’t all think alike, conservatives aren’t all insane, immigrants/minorities/religious people aren’t all _____. We’re all individuals.

Appreciate the value of different points of view. How much are you exposed to people who stand on the opposite side of social issues? How much do you allow (or encourage!) a range of ideas on your social media or in social situations? Is everyone free to express their views? We gain from the open sharing of opinions, and it helps us feel connected. Everyone wants a chance to be heard.

Listen with an open mind. Listen as you’d like to be listened to. Building relationships require the verb “relate,” and this is necessary to compromise and achieve consensus.

Don’t bring others into the argument. Stay focused on the conversation you’re currently having. Trying to build a coalition can escalate bad feelings, and other people may not appreciate being dragged into a debate that’s not their own.

Think before you speak. Is your argument well thought out? Are you being defensive? Are you attacking? Would you appreciate being spoken to in the manner you’re using? Are you setting yourself up to be shot down? Sometimes we just have to recognize that nothing fruitful will come from this particular conversation, and move on.

Keep your composure. I love this quote, “If you let your emotions get in the way of your logic, you’ll not only lose the argument but further contribute to animosity in the room” (see sources, below). Also, insist that the person you’re conversing with stay calm as well.
Keep your sense of humor. Laughter can be a great way to diffuse tension.

Try to find common ground. You might define “freedom” differently, for example, but you probably both value freedom. What else do you have in common? Reinforce positive feelings you have for each other, despite your differences. Remember what you respect and appreciate about each other—there’s always something to love!!

Licensed marriage and family counselor Ashley Thorn suggests asking ourselves these questions:
What are the facts, and what are our assumptions?
What are my values? How do those values fit into my thoughts, questions, and decisions? (Then also consider the other persons’ values, and how they inform their thoughts, questions, and decisions. Don’t they want the economy to thrive? Don’t they want to keep our kids and our communities safe? Don’t they want other countries to see ours as honorable? And so forth.)
What are the pros and cons to BOTH sides of the argument?

The more we try to appreciate what’s good about other people (even those we vehemently disagree with), treat them with respect and foster compassion, the more peaceful and productive our communication can be. Then maybe we can really start talking to—and listening to—each other, and solve some of the problems we face, together.

Sources:

https://psychcentral.com/blog/5-ways-to-expand-all-or-nothing-thinking/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201611/10-tips-talking-people-you-cant-agree

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

No Bad Days

 

I don’t actually have much of a blog this week. It’s been a rough time for my family. Some of my dearest loved ones are really struggling and need extra attention and support right now. Also, I had to have my darling fur-baby and faithful companion, Ray, put to sleep on Saturday.

Honestly, this dog saw me through my darkest days and he would’ve done absolutely anything for me. It’s super weird to not have to worry about tripping over him on the bedroom floor when I get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. There’s no one to beg with soulful eyes for the tip of my banana when I make my breakfast in the morning now. I don’t have to rush home from work to let him out and feed him dinner. He’s not by the door hoping for a walk or a ride in the car.

But, while I’m sad that he’s gone, there’s a sweetness to the sadness. I’m at peace with saying goodbye and parting ways. It was his time, and I’m glad he’s no longer suffering with the pain and anxiousness he was experiencing. I’m also at peace with feeling sad. It’s appropriate.

My heart is heavy knowing that my family members are suffering, but I also know that it’s only through struggle that we really grow. I’m immensely proud of them for facing their demons and doing the hard work of finding their authentic selves. I didn’t even begin to think about these issues until I was in my forties, so they are lightyears ahead of me and many other human works-in-progress.

So, I thought this week I would just share my philosophy that: there are no bad days. Some days are hard days, much harder than others. But they are still “good” days.

A lot of good will come from the work that my family members are undertaking now. And as for the loss of my pup—I wholeheartedly believe that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

May we all have a very good day today.

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

What Can We Do?

My heart is heavy after the violence in Parkland. There have been so many school shootings already in 2018. It’s beyond comprehension that our schools have become the LEAST safe place for our children to be.

But shopping malls, movie theaters, nightclubs, even churches are not safe either. We know now that no place is truly, unconditionally safe. Is there anything we can do about it? Would it be acceptable to do nothing?

The Dalai Lama says, “We may say prayers when we are trying to solve the problems we face, but it is up to us to put an end to violence and bring about peace. Creating peace is our responsibility. To pray for peace while still engaging in the causes that give rise to violence is contradictory.”

What can the average person realistically do to put an end to violence and bring about peace? Here are some ideas I’ve been able to come up with through my sadness:

1. Advocate. Maybe we could start with demanding some measure of gun control. No one wants to take away all the guns, truly. Also, no one really believes that we can stop 100% of gun violence by enacting a few restrictions on weapon sales.

But maybe, just maybe, if we have a little bit more screening and some sensible restrictions, we could make a bit of an impact. That’s better than no change, having no impact at all.

Consider this: Do you lock your house and your car? We could argue that a professional criminal will find a way in despite your very best efforts. If we can’t eliminate 100% of break-ins, why bother locking our doors? Is it because locking the doors does keep out some percentage of mentally disturbed people and crooks?

What if we could stop some percentage of shooters?

2. Advocate. While we’re at it, we need to fight for services for persons with mental illness.

3. Volunteer. There are organizations committed to helping young people at risk. Locally a dedicated group of volunteers works with students at the St. Johns Youth Academy (through an amazing organization called Compassionate St. Augustine) on things like conflict resolution, non-violent communication and much more. Groups like St. Augustine Youth Services, Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters all need volunteers. There are kids already in the court system who need a Guardian ad Litem to represent them. If that’s too big of a commitment, find a way to be a mentor.

There are adults “at risk” too! Volunteers are needed for homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, Learn to Read, and on and on and on.

4. Be Kind. If we can’t commit to volunteering on a regular basis, the very least we can do is smile at someone who may be having a rough time. Give a compliment and/or reassurance. Tell someone “You got this. I believe in you.” Maybe that’s just what someone needs to hear to turn away from a bad decision.

Maybe that’s what we can contribute to the healing process. We have to be the change we wish to see. We have to keep seeing the goodness in people, and in the world. And if we can’t see the goodness, we have to BE the goodness.

Let’s do what we can, now, before there’s another tragedy. Let’s start a real dialog, and do what we can to create more peace and goodness in the world.

Category : Blog &Personal Growth

R-E-L-A-X Some More!

 

Last week I shared 15+ ideas on how to relax almost anywhere in just a few minutes. Here are 15 more. Feel free to combine things! For example, if you need to talk and you feel like you want to move your body, invite a friend to walk and stretch with you. Try listening to soothing music while you sip a cup of tea—sitting outside if it’s nice! Sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission to make self-care a priority. Ready? Here are some worthwhile ideas:

Try a relaxation exercise. Take some deep breaths. Imagine that as you exhale, you are releasing negativity, baggage—anything you no longer wish to carry within you. You allow it to drain out of you, into the earth, where it will sink down to the core and be safely burned away. There are apps you can download with other guided visualizations.

Daydream. Allow yourself a moment to think of something that makes you feel happy. It could be meeting your idol! Or, remember a perfect moment in time and allow yourself to feel that contentment. Or, think of something you are looking forward to (exciting!) or someone you can’t wait to see (joy!). Instant mood booster.

If you like to travel, start planning your next trip.

Listen to music. Mellow music is great if you like it. Anything upbeat that makes you smile will work! Dance around a little bit if you need to discharge some negativity.

Roll a golf ball around under the bottom of your feet. And/or, scrunch and release your toes.

Brush your hair. Or give your scalp a little massage.

Squeeze a stress ball. Or putty. Or punch a pillow if you need to.

Organize something. If your desk or messy sink is bugging you, take a minute and tidy up. You’ll feel better and more in control.

Laugh. Have a joke book handy, or watch a short, funny video. Have you ever been in a “train” of people lying on their backs with each one’s head on someone else’s belly? Pretty soon one person starts laughing, and it makes someone else’s head bob, and they start laughing, etc. Even fake laughter can get real laughter started!

Write it down. Just the act of writing “I feel STRESSED” can dissipate the emotion’s intensity. You could journal, stream-of-consciousness style without editing yourself, to let it all out. And when you’re ready, you might also write down 3 things that went well in the last 24 hours, or one thing you feel grateful for each day. Keep things in perspective.

Work on a puzzle. A few minutes with a crossword or sudoku or jigsaw might help your mind shift and relax. Or doodle, or draw.

Read—something for fun! Not news or current events.

Cuddle with a pet. People are great, but there’s just something about a furry friend. They love us unconditionally, and they truly live in the moment. Petting them can actually lower our blood pressure.

Talk to a friend. Sometimes we need to vent, or we may need help changing the subject.

Do something nice for someone else. Reaching out, interacting, fostering kindness feels wonderful.

Be kind to yourself.

Practice self-compassion.

Do something just for fun.

Be silly.

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

R-E-L-A-X

 

Recently I was asked to give a brief talk on how to relax to a civic group that is feeling very stressed about current events and political developments. I figured the last thing anybody needs is pressure to add lengthy, complicated tasks to their to-do lists! So I came up with 30+ things that we can do in minutes from almost anywhere.

I’ll share half this week, and half next week. Some are geared toward breaking tension in a moment of anger or frustration. Others deal with more long-term, chronic feelings of being generally “stressed out.” Enjoy, let me know if you have any questions, or if you have another strategy that works well for you!

Breathe. This is the simplest and most effective thing we can do. Take a deep breath in, hold for a second, let a longer breath out. Exhaling engages the part of the nervous systems that calms and slows things down.

Step outside. Fresh air, sun, natural beauty—a change in perspective. Get out of your head! If you can’t get outdoors, look out a window—one with a nice view.

Go for a walk. If you can take a quick walk outside, even better. Or walk around indoors—get blood and lymph flowing, and change your focus for a moment.

If you feel especially aggravated, run in place for a minute. Or do some jumping jacks. Or jump rope!

Stretch. Reach up, breathe deep. Make gentle circles with your neck, shoulders, arms, hips—whatever you can comfortably manage.

Don’t make pain.

Do a few yoga poses if you know them. If you don’t know any, try this one: lie with your butt close to a wall, and put your legs straight up the wall. Rest your heels on the wall, and let it support the weight of your legs. Just lie there and breathe for as long as you like. It’s amazing how good this feels!

Try progressive relaxation. Start at one end of your body and purposely squeeze muscles in one body part at a time; then very deliberately release all that tension. Move on to the next part and slowly contract and release everywhere until you’re more completely relaxed all over.

Give yourself reflexology/massage your hand. Press around in the fleshy part between your thumb and index finger. “Thumb walk” down toward the base of the thumb. When you find a point that’s tender or sensitive, hold comfortable pressure and take a few deep breaths. And/or pull on and massage your outer ears.

Chew gum. It’s centering and can be calming for the brain.

Splash some water on your face. Rinsing your face is calming to the vagus nerve, a cranial nerve that is involved in calming internal operating systems down.

Enjoy some aromatherapy. Lavender, chamomile, and fruity/citrus (orange, lemongrass, bergamot, neroli) are good essential oils to use, or something warming and earthy like frankincense. Use what YOU like! Put a drop on a tissue and smell it; don’t put it directly on your skin.

Sniff some favorite flowers or herbs or citrus fruit if you don’t have essential oils handy. Peel an orange or a tangerine and enjoy the freshness!

Sip something soothing. Green tea is said to contain L-Theanine, a chemical that helps relieve anger. But it can also contain caffeine, and that is not so relaxing. An herbal tea might be better. Or warm milk. Hot cocoa might be ok, but we don’t want to overdo sugar—it can make us more irritable!

Take a warm bath. Add bubbles or Epsom salts if you like.

Meditate. Take 5 minutes to sit or lie down quietly and focus on your breath. Free apps offer short guided meditations that are easy to follow.

More ideas next week. Be well!!

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Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth &Reflexology

Why Do We Sleep?

 

Would it surprise you to know that our bodies and minds are just as active when we sleep as they are when we’re awake—maybe even more so? We’re not aware of it because we’re asleep, but critically important things happen in this “second state.”

The website howsleepworks.com states, “Sleep appears to be an essential physiological process for humans and for most other animals. When deprived of sleep, we function less effectively, feel tired and irritable, make more mistakes, are less creative and, if taken to extremes, ultimately die. In the same way, as a feeling of hunger reminds us of the basic human need to eat, a feeling of sleepiness reminds us of our essential need to sleep.”

Here’s a partial list of what we do when we’re asleep:

We shift into “rest and repair” mode. Our central nervous system has an autonomic mode that takes care of the internal processes that keep us alive. In our waking hours, we are largely in “fight or flight” mode, aware of potential threats to our wellbeing and worn down by daily stressors. During sleep, our bodies can focus on stabilization and maintenance: repairing and renewing tissues and nerve cells, neutralizing toxins, and restoring normal levels of chemicals throughout our bodies.

Wounds heal. Laboratory rats deprived of sleep show inferior healing capability, develop skin lesions, lose body mass, and struggle to maintain their body temperature, ultimately dying of sepsis or “exhaustion.” In humans, sleep is now associated with increased levels of growth hormones that contribute to tissue repair and regeneration (healing small muscle tears, for example).

The immune system gets a boost. It’s actually sage advice when folks tell us to get lots of rest when we’re sick or injured. Sleep-deprived rats had substantially fewer leukocytes—the while blood cells that help fight infection. Sleep deprived humans had less than half of the protective antibodies after receiving an inoculation as compared to people who had a healthy amount of sleep.

Brain power increases. Sleep is credited with increasing our brain plasticity—our ability to change and reorganize neural networks. REM sleep is so important, that when babies don’t get enough of it, it leads to developmental abnormalities later in life. During REM, we experience muscle “atonia,” a temporary paralysis of our muscles. It’s believed that this allows our brains to form new synaptic connections without risk of hurting ourselves by accidentally moving the wrong way. In other words, sleep allows conscious thought and motor activity to take a break so that the brain can work on other important functions.

Information is sorted and stored. Experts have long believed that new neural connections are made in the brain during sleep when external stimuli are minimal and no new information is being taken in. New research supports that during sleep, we convert short-term memories into long-term ones, and we re-consolidate long-term memories. Different kinds of sleep facilitate specific types of memories: visual memories vs. motor learning, emotionally neutral vs. emotionally charged memories, “declarative” memory (facts and events) vs. “procedural” memory (how to do things). This would explain why we have different sleep stages!

Brain power is boosted. Sleep seems to have a great impact on higher-level cognitive functions such as reasoning and decision-making. Getting enough sleep primes us for learning, “encoding” new memories more efficiently. When we learn something new, we perform the new task much better the next day after a good night’s sleep. By contrast, sleep deprivation leads to poor judgment, more accidents, and injuries.

Our brains clean house. There is evidence that during sleep, we “weed out” unnecessary and redundant memories and information, dumping information overload and keeping and sorting the important stuff.

Our mood improves. By contrast, sleep deprivation increases emotions like rage, fear, and depression. Sleep, especially dreams, facilitates creativity, flexible reasoning, and higher levels of understanding and knowledge.

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Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth