Health

Tell Me What’s Good

The other day, a client I see monthly greeted me and asked how things had been since our last session. “Tell me about your month,” she suggested, “what was good, what was bad… start with the bad.”

I guess she knew from the previous month that my family had been dealing with some challenges, and I briefly gave her a quick status update. 

The way I was really feeling: the list of “bad” things could have gone on and on. I probably could’ve rattled off half a dozen things or more that had been occupying a lot of my time and mental energy. 

And maybe it’s because I’d been preoccupied with life’s challenges that they were top of mind the day I saw this client, but I’m embarrassed to say that I almost struggled to respond to her follow-up prompt, “Now tell me what’s been good.”

We’re all healthy, at least physically. Business is really good. I told her how well my garden is doing, and how I’m delighting in a squash plant that popped up out of some compost I used around a new flower last spring. The vine has taken over a large portion of the butterfly garden with meandering branches that split to veer around other plants. The leaves are beautifully variegated and as large as my two hands put together. It hasn’t produced a squash that survived to maturity—yet—but I have high hopes for the most recent sprout. Either way, it’s been fun to watch it grow, a happy accident that it is.

Weirdly, that was the one story uplifting enough to make me smile. 

Of course, we all hit rough patches in life, and it’s OK if there truly is not as much “good” in any given month. Goodness knows, some days we have our hands full and we can’t fit much more in.

But, was that really my situation? Did I really NOT have that much “good” going on? Or was I just so focused on the “bad” that I lost my balance and forgot to see, or keep track of, the good stuff?

After all, I HAVE carved out some time to spend wonderful quality moments with friends. I’ve fully “moved into” my art studio in the office and I’ve created a number of collage/assemblage pieces that I’m quite happy with. I started painting my kitchen cabinets a dark eggplant purple color and I love how it’s turning out. 

I probably could’ve thought of half a dozen things or more that had brought me joy, but I was taken aback by how hard I had to think about it to compile that list. 

Starting today, I’m renewing the practice of writing down something I’m grateful for and three things that went well. Apparently, I need to do this because left to my own mental devices, I will not remember. 

Now the next time someone asks me to tell them the good stuff, I will be able to easily and happily share because THAT is what will be top of mind!

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Where Does the Time Go?

 

While June 21st marked the first official day of summer, school has been out locally for almost a month. We’ve blown through Memorial Day and are looking squarely at 4th of July. And just like every year, it feels like yesterday when we were saying “I can’t believe it’s 2018!”

Within the past few years, I’ve let go of some of my extracurricular commitments. I’m no longer in Rotary; my jewelry is not in a local gallery. I’ve said “no” to a good number of opportunities for socializing, I don’t do as much volunteer work as I’d like, I’ve decided not to adopt a dog at this time—all in an attempt to make life simpler.

I guess I’m hoping that if I slow down the pace of my life, it will feel like time itself is slowing down as well. That I can savor my un-busy moments and stretch out my days just a little bit more. 

But in the blink of an eye, the year is almost half over.

One day recently, 2 time-related headlines popped up on my Facebook feed. The first one said, “Stop saying you don’t have enough time. We have time for things we make time for.” And the second one said, “We’re almost halfway through the year. Are you ahead of your goals?”

I felt almost anxious! Am I ahead of my goals? No? Why am I NOT ahead of my goals? What ARE my goals? 

Well, some of my goals are health related. They seem very important to me, so I really “ought” to be able to make time for them. For example, I schedule time for exercise—goals that I think are very achievable. Just 30 minutes of cardio at least 3 time a week, daily stretching, and weights/resistance other days “as able.” But many weeks I fail to meet that goal.

I intend to make time to meditate every day, or at least “nearly” every day—even if it’s only for 5 minutes! But, I find I’m not consistently making time for that either.

I endeavor to eat healthy—carve out the necessary time to shop for fresh ingredients, do the necessary food prep and cooking, and sit down to eat with utensils at every meal. It is challenging to make the time for this, even though I know it is really important.

And in a good week, when I’m eating healthy and exercising and meditating and business is good, when the family is functioning well and there are no emergencies, I still don’t make enough time to read, journal, create art, spend time with friends, call relatives, and other things that I consider to be quite important. Can you relate?

The days, the weeks, the months fly by, and I am not ahead of my goals. I am barely keeping up, and I am often tired.

So, perhaps the most important “goals” are to try to strike a livable balance, and to embrace the imperfection. To accept that I am doing the best I can and that my best effort is enough. I am enough. You are enough, too!

Some weekends I even add “rest” to my to-do list. I make time to sit outside and enjoy my butterfly garden, looking at a magazine or simply daydreaming. I guess even in those moments, I am accomplishing something that’s important to me.

Because once a while, doing nothing is a virtuous goal, and worth devoting some time to.

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Why You Need to Learn CPR

Do you know how to administer CPR?

You should! The more people who know CPR the better, and here’s why.

CPR stands for Cardiopulmonary resuscitation. According to the Better Health Channel, “if the heart stops pumping, it is known as a cardiac arrest. CPR is a combination of techniques, including chest compressions, designed to pump the heart to get blood circulating and deliver oxygen to the brain until definitive treatment can stimulate the heart to start working again.”

We never know who might need emergency help. The American Heart Association says cardiac arrest “disrupts the flow of blood to the brain, lungs and other organs [and] is a leading cause of death. Each year, more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States.

“When a person has a cardiac arrest, survival depends on immediately getting CPR from someone nearby. Almost 90 percent of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die. CPR, especially if performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.”

A new technique has been developed called “hands-only CPR.” Doing chest compressions, even without mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, keeps blood flowing through the body. It’s less off-putting to the average person willing to help a stranger, and it’s far better than doing nothing! 

Chest compressions take over pumping blood when the heart cannot. But here’s the thing—it is very tiring work. CPR is most effective if it is done continuously until an ambulance arrives. But one person may not be able to keep it up for more than a few minutes.

We all need to be trained so we can help each other out. If you see someone administering CPR and you know how to do it, you can offer to take over for a few minutes. Then, the original person, or someone else with training, can take a turn. 

Hands-only CPR is easy to learn. Classes are offered locally through the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross. You can even arrange to have a class taught onsite at a civic organization or community club.

Please consider learning CPR. We always hope we’ll never have to use it. But I know if I needed help, I’d be eternally grateful for any Good Samaritan who helped save my life!

Resources: St. Johns County offers classes through the First Coast Technical College. For a link to that and other courses simply go to www.google.com and search for learn CPR near me.

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

Reflecting Before Sleeping

Much has been written on the benefits of contemplation first thing in the morning—setting intentions for the new day ahead and enjoying a calming ritual before rushing into the demands of the waking hours.

But what about introspection at bedtime—could we set the stage to have a wonderful night as well? 

Consider this 3-2-1 countdown strategy by Krista O’Reilly Davi-Digui, who writes for ALifeInProgress.ca.

3. Think of three things you are grateful for today. Even if we had a challenging day, we can find three things to be thankful for, however small. If you need help, there are many books on developing a practice of gratitude, including “A Simple Act of Gratitude,” by John Kralik. Here’s a link to the top 5 recommended by the Positive Psychology Program: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/gratitude-books-oliver-sachs/)

2. Remember two things you did well today. Most of us have no problem identifying our shortcomings or “areas needing improvement.” It really is important to counter self-criticism by giving ourselves credit for our strengths and acknowledging where we shine! The benefits of self-love include building confidence and resilience.

1. Ask yourself, “what is one thing I would’ve done differently?” Some nights, our answer might be “nothing.” But sometimes, if we acknowledge with self-compassion that we could’ve handled something better, we can encourage ourselves to make that choice next time. This is not meant to be self-condemning; but rather, a step toward living the best version of ourselves.

In this way, we get to choose who we want to be, and how we want to live fully according to our goals and values. Taking a few minutes to think purposefully before we retire can bring clarity and peace that will not only help us sleep well, but set us up to have a better day tomorrow.

Source: “Pillow Self-Talk: Three Questions to Ponder Before Sleeping,” by Krista O’Reilly Davi-Digui, “natural awakenings” magazine May 2018.

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth

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

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

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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