Blog Archives

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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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.

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!