Category Archives: Natural health

Take Time for Healing

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You may have noticed that my posts haven’t been exactly chipper this week. For some reason, this just hasn’t been the best week. Nothing bad happened, nothing that really warrants this kind of feeling, but I’ve just been in a funk this week. It’s a familiar feeling.

About a year ago, I found myself in a doctor’s office complaining about this feeling, and after some really fun blood tests, we realized that I was experiencing the classic symptoms of adrenal fatigue. I felt like I was dragging through life, I never felt rested after time off or a good night’s sleep, tiny things seemed like monumental tasks, and I was struggling with depression and anxiety. On top of that, we found out that I was allergic to dairy, that my blood sugar was dangerously low, and I had several nutritional deficiencies that perpetuate and are caused by adrenal insufficiency. All effects of chronic stress.

That was a wake-up call for a major life overhaul, which helped a lot. I felt great last summer. My energy came back, I lost a lot of weight, I reconnected with my creativity, and the anxiety and depression I’d struggled with for years seemed to evaporate.

Now I’m not feeling so hot. It’s nothing like it was last year, mostly because my attitude adjustment and healthier perspective keeps me more or less level headed, but I’m noticing that my energy is dragging again, even if I get a lot of sleep. Seemingly normal tasks often overwhelm me. I’ve been feeling a little of that anxiety and depression lately. My dairy allergy is back and I feel that familiar brain fog that comes with chronically low blood sugar. The weird part is, nothing overly stressful has happened. Sure, we had some financially tight weeks and I went back to work full time, but these things seemed to affect me more than they should have. I’m not guilt tripping myself for being weak or anything, I’m just noticing.

I don’t think that my little glands had sufficient time to heal. This isn’t happening again, but still. I might just be noticing it more because I’ve always had trouble in the winter, and that may be contributing. Either way, my body needs to heal. Adrenal insufficiency can take years to heal, so if I have any hope of functioning at my best in the future, I need to take my self-care seriously. I need time for physical and emotional healing.

I think a lot of us try push ourselves to live harder than what we can handle. We expect so much our ourselves, we cling to deadlines and to-do lists, we try to use our time as efficiently as possible, we fill our schedules with so much good stuff so we can feel like we’re accomplishing something. Then we burn out. We might even try to push through that.

Is pushing toward burnout faster a good use of our time, or would be be better off moving slowly, caring for our bodies and spirits along the way so they’ll last longer? Is everything really so important that we must run ourselves into the ground?

Conserve your energy. Refill your well. Understand that you are a human being who has limits, and that using “logic” to plan your life doesn’t always work, because logic doesn’t anticipate for human needs. We are not machines.

Take time to heal if you need to, and take time to maintain if you are healthy.

I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to push myself, but now I realize that I need to take recovery seriously. This means rest. This means feeding myself well, because this kind of condition tends to suck minerals out of your body. This also requires a serious examination of priorities. This might not be the best time for time-consuming, energy-zapping pursuits or overly ambitious goals.

Right now, the goal is healing. If I have to choose between much needed rest and something that I “should” be doing, I choose rest. I choose to give myself what I truly need and not what I think I should need. It’s ok to let some things go undone.

Do you need some extra care right now?

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Limiting Ideas, Intuitive Eating, and the Gym

First of all, check out this funny gym picture:

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I love how everyone is smiling. I don’t know about you, but my gym looks a whole lot different 🙂

Several months ago, I posted a piece I wrote in college about why I hate the gym. I meant every word. Yesterday though, Sam and I decided to get a gym membership at our local fitness center, which is actually a really nice facility with really reasonable prices.

I usually can’t stand exercise machines because I feel like a hamster on a wheel. I don’t like “artificial” feeling exercise. I’d much rather walk or run outside, do yoga, go for a bike ride, or go hiking.

It’s kinda hard to keep that up in the winter though.

I resisted the idea for awhile. The main reason was that it seemed silly to pay to exercise when I have a few perfectly good workout dvds at home, a yoga mat, and walking shoes. The other reason is that the gym didn’t fit with my idea of living as an intuitive eater/exerciser. It liked it to counting calories and measuring portions rather than listening to what my body needs.

Over the past few months though, I’ve realized that there’s no one way to live intuitively. For some people, this looks like a daily walk and three square meals a day. For others, it’s a gym membership and nibbling all day without set meals. Others may eliminate certain foods from their diet for health reasons. Some might use calories or measuring as a way to gain consciousness of their eating before they’re comfortable to fly on their own. For me, intuitive living is different at different times of year. During the summer, it’s little meals and snacks all day long and lots of walking with a little running and yoga thrown in. During the winter though, I’ve realized that I need something different. I’ve had to change my ideas about my lifestyle, which I was surprised to find were a little rigid despite flexibility being the whole point of intuitive eating.

Here are a few reasons why I no longer hate the gym and why I feel it’s necessary right now:

  • My body has been asking for more intense exercise than I’ve been giving it lately, and though I can bundle up and walk in the cold or do one of the exercise DVD’s that I have memorized, but it gets old. The gym has lots of different options like classes, the pool, plenty of machines, a track, free weights, and sports if for some reason I decided to experiment with that.
  • My knees have been hurting like they always do when I start sitting at a desk for most of the day. I really don’t have a low to no impact cardio option at home, but at the gym I have the pool, a stationary bike, or an elliptical. Any of those are a great way to build strength without taxing my knees further.
  • Sam and I barely see each other with both of us working weird hours and him going to school. He’s been wanting to exercise, so this might be a way to spend some time together in a healthier way than going to Buffalo Wild Wings at 9pm.
  • I’ve been wanting to build a little muscle because I have very little upper body strength (I can’t even do one full-on push up. Not even close.) and I’ve noticed that my abs are feeling a little weak as well. I could certainly do this with yoga or just with old school body weight exercises at home, but I hate the body weight exercises, I don’t really push myself with yoga at home, and I’d rather  do gentler yoga at home. The gym does have a Saturday yoga class I could go to, but weights offer a lot more variety and they’re faster. I even had fun even though years ago I likened the weight room to a torture chamber.
  • This might be a better way to blow off stress after work than munching. I don’t tend to be hungry in the evenings, but I often snack when I get home just because I feel like I should because it’s dinner time or something, and also because I usually feel spun out. Going to the gym after work a few days a week might help me regulate work stress and eating a little better as well as giving me an energy boost, because I tend to come home and crash until bedtime. Sometimes I paint in the evenings, but I’m a morning person and I do most of my artmaking in the morning before I leave. Going to the gym won’t give me more time for my art, but my body needs it. I could use a little more energy to push through these last few weeks of winter.

Flexibility isn’t about rebellion or avoiding things that you think don’t fit in your flexible lifestyle. It’s about adjusting your ideas according to what your body and spirit actually need. Rethink some of your limiting ideas such as “intuitive eaters don’t go to the gym” or “artists don’t worry about what they eat.” Yes, these are kind of silly ideas, but our subconscious can hold a death grip on silly things like these. Pay attention to your limiting thoughts. We all have them. Examine them. Question them. Are they serving you, or do you need something different right now? Do you need rest, or would a short trip to the gym make you feel amazing?

There are no rules, only consciousness, caring, and a little humility.

Are you hanging on to any limiting ideas?

Winter Solstice and Winter Self-Care

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Although it’s been freezing and frosty for weeks, today is the first official day of winter, or the day the Winter Solstice occurs. Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are the furthest we’ll ever  be from the sun, that life-giving source of heat and light.  Today, the gradual shortening of the days ends and many cultures around the world celebrate rebirth. Today is the shortest and darkest day of the year, and time seems to stand still as nature lies dormant. The trees have shed their leaves, the sap has frozen, the birds have migrated. All is silent.

I was going to create a painting to celebrate this special day, but my spirit and body seems to have aligned with nature because I too have slowed down. I’m ok with this, because I think it’s what my body needs.

My big goal with winter and winter blues this year is to make peace, while giving my body and spirit the best support I can. Dark days are hard for me. I’ve been fatigued and melancholy lately. Not depressed, just less enthusiastic.

I’ve also been reading all I can about the effects of winter on the body and spirit.  Though it seemed a little “woo woo” at first, I’ve really come to understand the concept of yin and yang, the two complementary energies that govern the universe. Yin is slow, cool, wet, feminine energy while yang is fast, hot, dry, masculine energy. Winter is yin, while summer is yang. These two energies exist within us and we feel better when they’re balanced. Makes sense.

Today is the slowest, most yin day of the year.  During the winter, we have very little yang energy to spare and quite a bit of yin energy. This can look like we have no energy, but yin energy is just slower and more  contemplative.

In the winter, we can balance these energies by building and conserving what yang we have, and releasing excess yin. Do yin exercise, like restorative yoga and walking while avoiding strenuous yang activity like running and aerobics. Eat yang foods (warming spices like ginger, garlic, cayenne, cinnamon and tumeric) and avoid cold yin foods like cucumbers, lettuce, and mango (i.e. “summery” foods).

This concept was galvanized for me yesterday when I felt kinda bla and attempted my favorite exercise DVD, hoping to gain some energy. I made it about ten minutes in before feeling like I was going to keel over. However, I was all warmed up for a walk, so I bundled up and took a stroll around the block instead. It felt great, then I for a yummy, yang-building lunch I had eggs scrambled with onions, tumeric and garlic salt.

So instead of burning yang energy that you don’t have today, try slowing down. Trade your kickboxing class for some gentle yoga, have a spicy stir-fry for dinner, and enjoy a quiet evening rather than running around Christmas shopping, preparing for parties, or doing chores.

Take the hint from nature. This is a time to slow down, focus inward, and renew.

Slowing Down with Nature

In a few days, we will have reached the shortest day of the year: The Winter Solstice.  Until then, the days of the Northern hemisphere rapidly grow shorter and darker, and the world seems to slow down.

I too, feel like I’m moving in slow motion.  I wrote about winter blues a few weeks ago, and though I’ve accepted that this is my slower, quieter time of year, it’s still difficult to deal with low moods, fatigue, and carb cravings. My body also seems to want to eat higher on the hunger scale, meaning that I start to eat when I’m less hungry and stop when I’m fuller than usual. I’ve taken on a few pounds of “winter padding”, which doesn’t really bother me because my clothes fit and I know they’ll go away in the spring.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like she’s slowing down. Creative people in particular seem to be very sensitive to the seasons and the cycles of nature. Many great creators throughout history worked seasonally. I honestly can’t remember who at the moment, but maybe that’ll be a fun post for later 🙂

A few days ago, I wrote about how I felt overwhelmed by my to-do lists, especially related to art. I was going to post two new paintings last week, but I haven’t quite finished them. I was going to create a painting about the solstice and actually have it finished by the solstice (which would take several full days of painting) but I haven’t even started it. I was going to do so many things, but I just can’t. 

At first, I felt guilty. Sometimes I’m still stuck in that modern American mindset that my worth is determined by my productivity and how much I work, which is not true at all.  Then I remembered that in these darkest days of the year, I need to respect my need to slow down. I can’t chug out one or two paintings a week like I did in early fall. I can’t power through a mile-long to-do list each morning before work. It’s not laziness. It’s just respecting my limits, which is an essential part of self-care. 

Right now, I accept that it may take me two or even three weeks to finish a painting. I accept that what I need right now is the time to read, journal, do yoga to keep my body healthy. I need to think, prepare healthy and warming foods, and slowly work through the things I have to do. I have to go to work to pay my rent. I have to buy groceries and wash my dishes and do laundry. Sometimes, that’s the best I can do.

I’m not taking time “off”, I’m just allowing myself to move slower during these darkest days of the year. This feeling is temporary, and it’s ok.  It’s ok if you need to slow down as well. The holidays are a time when most of us feel like we should be rushing around, even though it goes against our natural instincts. Do what you can to take this week slow. You’ll thank yourself later, and think how energetic and awesome you’ll feel in six months during the summer solstice!

 

Making Peace with Winter Blues

“Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.”

Henry David Thoreau

It’s that time of year again. Since I was a child, I’ve had winter blues. I’ve never been officially diagnosed with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) but I know that my moods, energy levels, appetites, and creativity are very seasonal. Even my art is seasonal.

I usually dread this time of year and pretend it isn’t happening. I curse the snowfalls, the darkness and the cold and I retreat into my little turtle shell until spring. I always pretend that this year will be different. I will eat the right foods, exercise a ton to keep my serotonin up, take all the supplements I need, somehow find the money for a light box, etcetera etcetera etcetera. Has it ever worked? Nope.

This year though, I’ve decided to stop fighting it. Call a truce. Make peace with winter. I’ve accepted that I’m entering my low-key, quiet, contemplative time of year. I need to allow myself to be slower, quieter, and to even…enjoy the change of pace.

I know I’m not the only one who feels like a slug all winter, so I wanted to share some ideas of how we can embrace this time and stay healthy.

  • Do what you can to stay healthy, but don’t be militant. Simple carbs like sugar and white flour can raise serotonin levels briefly, but often leave you craving more. Get enough protein to keep your blood sugar stable. Exercise helps boost your mood, but be compassionate on the days where you really need a rest. Make it easy to stay healthy. Stock up on healthy staples and if you have a freezer, try preparing a bunch of healthy meals in advance like soups, casserole or stir-fry and crock-pot meal ingredients that you just have to open and dump into the cooking apparatus. Pick up some fun exercise videos. I’m a fan of belly dance, kundalini yoga and kickboxing videos.
  • Keep warm. I’m a frugal person, but I’ve found that one of the nicest things I can do for myself during the winter is to shell out the extra money on the gas bill to keep my apartment warm and to take lots of hot baths. Also, I notice that I’m a lot more likely to exercise if I’m not freezing. Invest in an electric blanket and cute, warm clothes to layer. Get some warm exercise clothes if you plan on trying to exercise outside.
  • Remove as many stressors as possible before your energy starts to sink. Do your holiday shopping early and/or online. Do a deep “Fall cleaning” so you don’t have to be as vigilant with housekeeping in the winter. Prepare Christmas cards early. Take on less responsibility if possible so you can create “white space” in your schedule, and give yourself plenty of “transition time” instead of rushing from obligation to obligation. Take care of as many nasty chores as you can before the temperature drops. For me, this means car maintenance. Blegh.
  • Take advantage of sunny days. Get as much sun as you can. Decorate your home with candles and lights. The lack of light is a huge factor of winter blues. It’s no accident that many winter celebrations that take place at the darkest time of year include light as a major part of their traditions. Think Hanukah candles and Christmas lights.
  • Make your home beautiful all winter. I hate taking down Christmas decorations, because then my home looks so drab and depressing after a month of lights and glittering ornaments and beautiful colors. This year after I take down my little tree, I want to put up some other beautiful winter decorations so I won’t have to look around at the newly dreary walls and feel sad after I put the Christmas décor back in the closet.
  • Find things to celebrate, but don’t try to overdo it.My November Gratitude Project is a good example.  Perhaps you could spend the evening of the winter solstice taking a candle lit bath, or read a special book. This gives you things to look forward to and ways to make peace with  the season rather than fighting it.
  • Acceptance, compassion, and gentleness. You probably won’t be the Energizer Bunny during the winter. It’s ok. There is a season for everything. I get some good thinking done in the winter. Read good books, think, write in your journal, learn to knit. This is the season for slowness. Nature takes a rest, and you can too.  You will have rough days, but this is also a time to exercise patience. Spring will come. It always does.

Happy winter!

What’s in Your Toolbox?

 

We all get stressed out sometimes. We all get angry, tired, anxious, or plain burnt out. So what do we do when we get there? How do we take care of ourselves? How do we learn from these emotions?

If you can’t  think of the answers to these questions, don’t worry. It’s ok if you don’t know how to handle these emotions yet, because most people don’t. Most of us see these emotions as bad things that should always be avoided, and that something is wrong with us if we experience them. This isn’t always the case.

Uncomfortable emotions aren’t there to get us, they’re often our greatest teachers and road signs. If we’re stressed, anxious, or  depressed all the time, we know that something in our life or attitude needs to change. If we get angry, we might have stumbled over an emotional block that we get to work through and release so we can live better.

But how do we do this?

We use a toolbox. Everyone has one. This toolbox contains the tools we use to handle emotions.

Sometimes these toolboxes are well-stocked so that we can handle any job life throws at us. Some of our toolboxes are rather sparse. Others are full of hammers when what we really need are screwdrivers.

Let’s take a look at our toolboxes. What kind of tool could we find in there? Let’s take a look at my toolbox first. It may not look like your ideal toolbox, but it sure works for me:

  • Journaling
  • Yoga, walking and hiking outside
  • Uplifting reading like my religious texts, blogs, and books like Healing from the Heart by Dr. Judith Moore (this book was key in my recovery)
  • Talking to my husband, Mom, or friend.
  • Cleaning my apartment, artmaking, and cooking. Great activities for when my hands need something to do while I think.
  • iPod: good music, inspiring podcasts and my SoulArt courses.
For me, this is a well-stocked toolbox, and these things work  for a lot of people. This is what I do when I encounter difficult emotions that I need to work through, think about, talk about, or ride out.
My toolbox used to contain a lot of other things that didn’t get the job done, like eating to cope with anxiety. Actually, I think that was the only tool in there for awhile. Here are some other unhelpful tools we might use to distract, numb or release feelings:
  • Dangerous behaviors like using drugs, smoking, self-inflicted injury, having unprotected sex or drinking.
  • Zoning out in front of the TV or computer
  • Blowing up at someone to express anger
  • Shopping
  • Wearing ourselves out by overworking or overexercising
  • Bingeing or restricting food
  • Bottling up emotions until they make us sick.
If you constantly feel stressed, irritable, or worn out, you may want to examine your toolbox to make sure you have the right stuff. Otherwise, you’ll waste your time try to pull out nails with a wrench.
So what’s in your toolbox? Here are some ideas of tools you could use instead of the harmful ones listed above.
  • Supporting rituals like “you-time”
  • Supportive friends, family or a counselor you can talk to
  • Journaling and creative expression
  • Exercise
  • Service to others
  • Good books and other resources to help you work through emotions
  • Activities that help you unwind without tuning out. Yoga, reading, and that old self-care cliche, the hot bubble bath.
  • Anxiety-soothing activities that keep your hand or body busy while your mind is free to think like cleaning, knitting, wire-jewelry making, kneading bread dough, whatever.
What’s in your toolbox? Did I miss anything? Let me know!

Healthy Interest vs Obsession


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It’s finally June! I can’t believe the year is almost half over! If you haven’t taken a look at your New Year’s Intentions, this is probably a good time to do that in case you’ve forgotten about them. I find that the beginning of anything (months, seasons, etc.) is a good time to go back over my goal and evaluate my position.

Moving along, I know that health-minded folks make up a significant portion of my readership, but this post is for anyone who’s ever battled a vice that is healthy in theory but can become addictive. For me, this thing is studying health and nutrition and collecting recipes. I’m sure I’m not the only one with a stack of unused cookbooks that serve the same purpose as picture books. For you the habit may be exercise, experimenting with your diet, cleansing, etc.  Most of  us have heard of orthorexia by now, and we all know that we can have too much of a good thing.

To give you a little insight into my (often obsessive) interest, I love to learn about health and nutrition and I have hundreds of recipes though I rarely use them. The problem is, I often do these things when I’m stressed or when I’m avoiding something, like when I have writers block or another form of creative fear. I can sit and organize my unused recipes for hours, I can read stacks of books promoting one nutritional theory, and this usually translates into obsessive and/or compulsive eating because I feel either restricted or afraid on some level of what internal organ will fail if I don’t eat that way.

When I feel more balanced, I rarely cook and I don’t think much about health. I do believe that studying food and health does have it’s merits though, so I want to balance it in my life.

Yesterday I felt compelled to look through my recipes again and to pick some out that I’d like to try. In the past I’d go through and catergorize them according to whatever diet philosophy I was studying at the time, and even though I’ve given up dieting, it was still a very diet-like behavior, like orthorexia without the will-power. I got out my cookbooks, thumbed through them but kept close tabs on my feelings so I’d know when I started feeling obsessive and needed to stop. That feeling never came, and I found myself getting bored after just a little while. No staying up into the wee hours organizing, no pouring over article after article on the merits of X supplement or Y diet restrictions. I just didn’t need it anymore.

Do you struggle with any vices like this? Working out? Cleaning you house? Your healthy diet? If you’ve been told that you’re “obsessive”, or if you feel like you must do these things, you might want to consider the line between a healthy interest and an unhealthy obsession.

Where is that line? 

  • Do you feel frantic, like you can’t stop doing something or that you have to get to a certain point before you can stop?
  • How often do you think about it?
  • Does this activity make you feel peaceful, inspired and happy, or do you feel like you must, or that something bad will happen if you don’t?
As a person with strong obsessive tendencies around food and health, I constantly ask myself these questions when I read food or lifestyle blogs, books, when I make grocery lists, etc.
I believe the key to managing healthy obsessions is balance. Here are some tips for managing an otherwise healthy obsession:
  • Keep tabs on the time you spend engaged in or thinking about this activity. If necessary, set a time limit or stop completely for a little while.
  • Pay close attention to your thoughts and emotions as you workout/cook/read/etc. If they start to speed up or feel negative at all, find something else to do.
  • Give yourself adequate time for relaxation and reflection to develop a calmer attitude. 
Note: If you find that obsessive thoughts persist despite your efforts, you may want to speak to a counselor or holistic doctor to check on possible imbalances or underlying emotional issues.
Many of us health-conscious people, especially in the blogosphere I’ve noticed, have a history of obsessive tendencies, so we would do well to keep tabs on our habits, especially if we’re still in transition from a restrictive to a healthy lifestyle.
Have you ever struggled with over-doing a healthy habit? 

Hitting the Reset Button

So something happened yesterday that hasn’t happened for a few months: I ate compulsively. It wasn’t an obvious binge, but over the course  of the day I noticed that I never felt hungry once, but I never felt satisfied and I kept eating. I didn’t get upset or anything, I didn’t think those awful thoughts that usually come with a binge. “Why are you doing this?! You’re so weak. You must not care about your body. All the hard work you’ve done, and you throw it away just to keep tasting.”

Nope, none of that. I just let it happen, knowing that something wasn’t quite right with me and that I didn’t quite have the strength to deal with it in the moment, which is fine. So I ate, and it all tasted delicious.

Later in my journal, I realized that I might just need to go back to the basics.

I believe that all compulsive eating behaviors come from a mixture of emotional and physical roots.  I know my physical and chemical roots well, and the way I ate yesterday-lots of sugar and simple carbohydrates, no protein, healthy fat or veggies-could only set me up for more binging. I’m sure my blood sugar was going nuts.

After the emotional work I did last week, I know that I’m still struggling with the feeling of urgency, of feeling rushed and trying to relieve that tension by eating. Though I worked out the feeling last week, I haven’t let it go yet.

So what did I decide to do?

This week, I’m hitting my reset button and returning to the basics, to what I know works for my body and mind.

  • Eating foods that make me feel good (lots of veggies with some fruits, nuts, eggs, fish and sprouted grains) and avoiding the foods that mess up my body signals (sugars, dairy, white flour)
  • Eating consciously-chewing thoroughly, eating at the table without a book or my computer, and blowing off mealtimes and eating when I feel like it.
  • Joyful movement, my way. This usually means a good walk or run in the morning, a few shorter walks throughout the day and my yoga practice.
  • Taking my time, removing all the pressure. Taking time to do yoga and study my scriptures, taking time to lock myself in my studio to play or just think if I want, and taking time to be slow.
I learned recently that I hate to hurry and I’d like my life to be slower and more relaxed, and now I’m actually going to slow down and relax, even if this means I don’t get as much done.
I wrote this down in my journal and I thumbed through a healthy cookbook to get in the mood by looking at healthy food, and then I started to feel nervous.
How is this different from a diet, or New Year’s Resolutions or other things I don’t follow through with? 
I wondered if I was putting myself on a diet in disguise, but after a few minutes of reflection, I realized this was different.
  • This comes from a place of self-love and a desire to heal.
  • Unlike a diet, this is all about removing pressure on the body and spirit
  • This is non-obsessive and feels like a relief. It’s not exciting the same way dieting. It just feels good, like falling asleep after a long day.
When I feel like I need to “start over”, I usually look at a ton of food and recipe blogs, read cookbooks and start collecting recipes like crazy, making plans, buy a bunch of food for new recipes that will sit in my pantry for months and eventually get so overwhelmed that I just say “forget it” and I’m back to square one. I’ve made no plans. If I decide to experiment with fo0d, it’ll start in my own body and at the produce section.
The bottom line is that maintaining health and connection to my creativity shouldn’t be a battle. We need to work with what we have and if we want to slow down and relax, we need to actually slow down and relax. It’s a radical idea in this society, but we need it. We might have to accept that we might not be able to get as much done as we wish we could and still maintain balance, but if we’re out of balance we won’t do much anyway!
So this week, I challenge all of you hit your reset button. Go back to what works for you. You don’t have to take the week off work-I’m not-but remove the pressure from yourself and focus on regaining balance. If you don’t know what works for you, dedicate this week to finding out. Don’t go overboard with planning, because you’ll just get overwhelmed.
Balance, this is all about balance.
Let me know how it goes!
McKella

7 Ingredients to Emotional Healing

What a week! I’m finally moved into an apartment that I LOVE, Sam and I have both found jobs and things seem to be coming together. Things will be tight, but we’ll make it. I feel like I can finally breathe. I’ve gotten out of a situation that wasn’t good for me and now I feel like it’s time for some healing for body and spirit.

            We often think of health as purely a matter of body, but our emotional state has a profound effect on our bodies, so if we’re stressed, sad, angry, or fearful, expect to feel it in your body. Ever gotten sick during finals week? Yeah, me too.  As for me, my chronic stress has run my poor adrenal glands ragged, which in turn messed up my glucose levels, which exacerbates my compulsive eating tendencies which also feed on emotional distress. Though emotional discomfort is not fun on its own, it’s taken a toll on my body.

            If you’re experiencing any emotional distress, I urge you to take some time to heal before it damages your precious body. I’ve spent a lot of quiet time with my mind and body lately, paying attention to those tiny nagging pains, the fatigue, the anxiety, and all of my emotions, good and bad. I ask myself, “What do I need to heal my emotions, my tired adrenal glands and my relationship with food?” As yourself what you need, and take the time to find answers. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Emotional safety– Let’s start at the beginning: if you don’t feel safe to feel and express your emotions, they will fester inside of you and wreck all kinds of havoc on your body. Do whatever you need to do to feel safe. If you feel trapped in anything, whether it’s a damaging relationship, a ridiculously stressful job, a less-than-ideal living situation, get out. It’s scary, it’s hard, but it’s the first and biggest step.
  2. Rest– Our bodies and minds don’t function properly without sufficient sleep and downtime, and if you’re strained you probably need more than most people. The recommended eight hours is just a guideline; if you’re emotionally depleted or fighting off an illness, take more. It’s not excessive, or self-indulgent, it’s what you need. If you need more than twenty minutes of “you time” every day, do whatever you need to take it without feeling guilty. Remember, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.
  3. Nutritional support– Food is more than stuff to keep that nagging growling stomach at bay, or to soothe our emotions. Food is what our bodies use to rebuild themselves and to function, so if you constantly feed it damaged food, you’re going to get a damaged body. Learn to listen to your body, pay attention to how certain foods make you feel so you can feel yourself the right things. Use high-quality supplements to fill in some gaps if necessary, at least a whole food multi and possibly fish oil as well.
  4. Creative expression– Everyone is creative, even if you don’t paint or write novels or compose symphonies. Return to a creative activity you loved as a child, or try a new one. Visit art galleries, go to plays, read mystery novels and look for little opportunities to be creating, like when you’re making dinner or helping your kids with school project. If you’re a very artistic person whose been blocked for awhile, (like yours truly) this is especially important. Creative constipation is damaging to the spirit. Creativity is part of being human and a huge part of being healthy. Recognize it, cultivate it.
  5. Grounding rituals– Life is hectic. Duh. A couple soothing rituals can serve as anchors in the midst of all the craziness, whether it’s getting up ten minutes earlier for a cup of herbal tea, taking five minutes to mediate after work, or doing relaxing stretches to prepare for bed. Come back to these rituals a few times every day to root yourself down.
  6. Meditative movement– The physical and mental benefits of exercise are well-documented, but the spiritual perks are immeasurable. Find a way of moving that connects you to your body and nature. Walking works well for just about everyone, but try dance, yoga, martial arts, biking, or even canoeing. Appreciate what your body can do and use your movement sessions not only to tone your body, but to listen to it and to clear your head.
  7. A constant positive outlook– Surround yourself with positivity. Plaster your home with sticky notes bearing uplifting messages. Guided mediations are awesome, so get some CDs or podcasts. Carry a journal constantly to write through negative feelings and come back to a positive place. Train yourself to replace your destructive thoughts with healing ones. Spend time with people who think highly of you.

The world is full of books on each of these steps. Some people learn these the hard way and some cultivate these skills early on to avoid learning them the hard way. The key is to listen to your emotions and your body simultaneously. They both speak to you in symphony and it’s amazing what they’ll tell you.

            How have your emotions affected your body?

The Jewel in the Ashes

It’s finally Spring! The daffy-dills are up, fresh asparagus dominates the produce section and here in Utah, we’re almost to the end of the late-winter blizzards! (I say almost, we’re expecting one tomorrow, when I’m supposed to be moving. Sigh)

I feel a little silly writing what I want to share with you today, but I think I’ve discovered the secret to everything. To being happy, calm, to feeling closer to God and to recovering from stress and illness. Not that it’s a secret or anything, but I’ve never let it in before now. I can’t believe it’s so simple and so radical at the same time.

Before I rip the curtain off this one, here’s what brought me to this point:

All my life, I’ve felt robustly healthy, even when I was overweight or stressed. Lately, I can’t concentrate, my head hurts, I have no energy even though I get my eight hours. I can’t stop eating, my creative output is near zilch (and, uh, sorry about the whole not posting thing) and my depression and anxiety were getting out of control.

I don’t feel like myself.

I visited a doctor who’s an MD, but also a naturopathic doctor who synchronizes physical and emotional healing. After a bunch of lovely blood tests including a glucose test (by far the worst experience I’ve ever had in a doctor’s office, gynecologist included.) In addition to the emotional stuff I already knew about, it looks like I have a couple nutritional deficiencies, a dairy allergy (waaaaah!) and extremely low glucose levels. Apparently, I should have gone into a coma before that test was over, but because I didn’t, my body’s probably been struggling with this for a long time. Sam even called me in the middle of the test and asked if I was drugged.

The bottom line is, my glucose levels and other symptoms are signs of adrenal insufficiency, which means the adrenal glands don’t produce enough of the necessary hormones to cope with stress, which explains why I feel so…depleted.

While working with this awesome doctor and reflecting on the chronic stress that brought me to this point, I had an epiphany:

Gratitude

When we think of the things we’re thankful for, what are the first things to pop into our minds? Friends, family, freedom, food (wow, that’s a lot of f words), but do we ever think of being grateful for the seemingly bad things in our lives? Believe me, I’ve never been very good at this. I don’t do well with change or pressure and I tend to yell “Uncle” at the first sign of discomfort, but when I stop, who would I be without my trials? The most important lessons I’ve learned were the results of struggle. Life is difficult for a reason. I’ve never before mentioned religion in the blog, but as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (it’s a mouthful, I know) I believe we were put upon this earth to gain knowledge, experience and the wisdom that it brings, and honestly, how wise would we be if we were never tested? How can we know love, happiness, or progress if we’ve never experienced the opposite?

I had a hard time wrapping my brain around this, so I wrote them down in my journal. Be grateful for the unpleasant things.

I’m thankful for the people who were cruel to me, so I could learn to love them anyway.

I’m thankful for stress, because I can now learn to slow down.

I’m thankful for weight gain, because I’ve learned to love my body.

I’m thankful for my newly-realized food intolerances, because I can learn to keep food in its’ proper place.

I’m thankful for illness, because now I can learn to be healthy

I’m thankful for winter, because I can feel the difference of spring

I’m thankful for tight finances, because I can learn to love the simple things that cost nothing

I’m thankful for depression, because now I can learn to be happy.

I’m thankful that God didn’t remove these trials when I asked him to, so I could learn all these lessons, plus patience.

I’ts amazing how my perspective has changed just from learning this one truth. This really isn’t something someone can learn until they’re truly ready, and even though I grew up hearing about the importance of gratitude and learning that life is a test, or a school as my doctor puts it, I’ve never truly comprehended that until now, but it’s true. It really is true.

McKella