A few of my favorite (free) things

I’m ramping up to do a blog series on alternative healing modalities like massage, acupuncture, and CranioSacral therapy and how those therapies can contribute to our healing. But before I started all that, I wanted to acknowledge the costly elephant in the room of autoimmune disease: being chronically ill can be pricey. From missed time at work to out-of-pocket medical expenses, the price tag for the autoimmune disease can get expensive, depending on your type of insurance and access to medical care. When you add alternative methods of healing to the traditional medical model, the money adds up fast.

While I deeply believe that every dollar I’ve ever spent on my healing was well worth it, I also want to control that cost as much as possible. Over the years I’ve discovered how I could give myself the best care while saving some money along the way. I’ve written several posts on how to reduce your spending while striving to clean up your eating and environment, but today I want to share those things that are free. We are lucky to live in a time when a wifi connection and a device of some kind can open up a world of quality teachers to assist you in your healing.

Yoga

Yoga is one of the best things out there to reduce pain, detoxify, and help heal our broken relationship with our bodies. And for my money…um…time, Yoga with Adriene is the best way to get all those benefits without having to go to a studio. She offers a variety of videos for free from yoga for weight loss to yoga when you are angry and several yoga challenges.  But the best thing is that you get an authentic teacher who is clearly passionate about bringing the healing power of yoga to everyone while having fun. I don’t know about you, but fun isn’t something I think of when I think yoga. But Adriene Mishler makes it happen.  So even if you think you hate yoga, give Yoga with Adriene a try. I promise you will find something useful.

Meditation

There have been hundreds of studies that have found that meditation does many positive things for us, from increasing our compassion to improving our health. For those of us with autoimmune disease, meditation can help to reduce our stress, inflammation, and decrease our fears. For beginners to meditation, the Headspace app is a great tool. Each guided meditation is 10 minutes long. The app is technically not free, but it offers 10 days of free meditation and you can take those 10 free days over and over again. The Calm app is also another great guided meditation tool with some free features. Like Headspace, it is a paid service with free guided meditations, but what they offer for free is quality guided meditations full of useful information.

Workouts

Working out is extremely important for those of us with autoimmune disease because it helps to reduce inflammation and to increase our levels of happiness. And who doesn’t want to be happy?  Gyms are often a good place to go to get your workout on, but they can be expensive. And if you take classes, you have to work around their schedule.  This is why I really like Fitness Blender. This free, online resource has a plethora of fitness videos in a variety of styles and times. The search feature should be the poster child for all searches. Only have a 20 minutes to do a full body workout for beginners? No problem. Just input your requirements and find a workout that’s right for you.

 

Chronic illness can be so expensive, but supporting your body doesn’t have to be. I would love to know what you think of these resources. Have you tried any? Have they helped? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Reduce your stress and get focused now with one simple tool!

 

School event The other day I had the privilege to see an acting troupe perform plays written by my kid and her classmates. It was awesome! But it was also on a Friday afternoon in the cafeteria with about 200 kids who were ready for the weekend. To say the energy was up would be an understatement. The teachers and the performers did a great job of keeping the kids quiet, but one really exciting moment on stage was just more than these kids could handle.

Remember how loud it could get during an assembly when you were a kid? I was having major flashbacks!

But then one fabulous teacher got their attention and started counting out the breaths.  Breathe in for four, hold for seven, and breathe out for eight. Two rounds later the energy had shifted! I knew this worked for me and for the adults (like the teachers I taught it to) and my own kids in a one-on-one situation, but I was floored by how immediate and effective this breathing exercise was for some 200 kids with weekend-fever.

If I hadn’t already been sold on 4-7-8 breathing as an effective tool to immediately reduce your stress and get focused, I would have been in that moment. All these kids brimming with energy and feeding off of each other were able to calm down and get centered in less than a minute! When they took those deep, intentional breaths, they were telling their brains (which told their bodies), “Everything is cool; you can relax.” When their bodies received the message, they turned off the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight)  and engaged the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest).

And you can do that too. Feeling too scattered to write that to do list or just get after it? Feeling overwhelmed by stress? Can’t sleep because your mind is racing? Take less than a minute and breathe in for 4, hold for 7, and breathe out for 8. Do this for two to three rounds, and you will send your body the relaxation signals it needs to calm down and focus on the task at hand.

Check out my video for a guided practice and let me know how it worked for you in the comments below.

Until next time,

Carrie

Move now, move later!

The workout and I have a long complicated history. In elementary school, I was super creative in getting out of P.E. and probably only went about half the time. As a chunky child, I sat out of fear of looking like a fool. In high school, I spent an hour plus at the gym every dang day, running on the treadmill and lifting weights. As I got older, the exercise thing was like a rollercoaster. I was either completely dedicated to it or dedicated to the couch. There were no in-betweens. The only thing these exercise stages shared was that exercise equaled punishment for being less than.

Thankfully, that’s not where I am today. Part of my healing journey was to find a way to work exercise into my life in a loving way. To do this, I developed a new way of looking at exercise. I would move in intentional ways so I could continue to move in those ways into the future.

While I have a much more rigorous exercise routine now, this idea is my base. At the very minimum, I walk now because I want to take long walks when I’m older. I pick up heavy objects and hold planks for my kids to crawl under because I want a strong body well into my old age. I do yoga and stretch throughout my day so I can keep my balance and flexibility when age makes that more difficult. Movement is an investment in my future self.

Of course, exercise can be challenging to fit into your day, especially when you have little ones, work, laundry, and other adulting to do. But you have to prioritize it. Just like you prioritize brushing your teeth, eating food, and update your Facebook status. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing different ways to get exercise into your life. But for now, start brainstorming about what you hate about exercise, what you love about it, and why you aren’t getting enough. Leave me a comment below!

 

Go play!

play

We bought our kids a trampoline for Christmas. This serves two purposes: 1.) to keep from adding more clutter to our tiny house and 2.) to have fun! (Because trampolines are just really, really fun.) They love it. My oldest races home from school every day to jump, and it has ended our arguments about screen time. My youngest has a blast and wears herself on the regular. Yay for longer naps, may they stay for a while. It’s such great play. We have a net and some rules, so I set my worries about ER visits aside.

But it’s also got me thinking about what I do for fun. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we stop having fun. Or maybe it’s just that fun turns into going on dates or out to bars with friends. Now I am not a teetotaller by any sense of the definition, but I find that really sad. Not only is drinking too much really bad for our gut health, but it’s also usually a sedentary event. And when we try to right all of our sedentary ways, we usually do it by going to the gym. Where is the fun!?! When did we stop having fun through moving our bodies?

Playing helps to reduce stress, makes us feel younger, and reconnects us to ourselves and our loved ones. What could be more important than that? Work you say? Bills? I get it, but wouldn’t work be easier if you were less stressed and felt more connected? Aren’t those bills always going to be there no matter what your health status is?

I’m issuing a challenge. Go play! Spend a minimum of 10 minutes a day doing something active that you find fun. Turn on the radio and make up a new dance. Have a race with your kids. Start a tickle fight with your partner. Just move your body and give into the joy of play. I’ll be jumping!

 

Mindset matters

dumpster-fire
Created by Jennifer Brooks @stribrooks

As we round the final bend of 2016 I want to take a few seconds to reflect on this year and how important our mindset is to our health. The very witty ornament pictured above pretty well sums up how the world felt this year. Deaths of icons, a stressful election season, and injustices of all sorts hitting the headlines daily — it was a pretty crappy year when you take the 1,000-foot view. In all honesty, it was starting to take its toll on me.

I spent a lot of time feeling angry, sad, and completely helpless, and this started to manifest in my health. I was starting to lose energy and have those tell-tell signs of inflammation in my joints. Those of you battling illness know that this usually signals a downhill spiral. I know because I’ve spiraled away many times before. But not this time.

This time I took stock. Yes, the world can be a broken and horrible place, but how has my year been? My kids are healthy and growing. My marriage is strong and supportive. I’ve got the love of my extended family and have even seen some of them this year. I’ve got friends, I’ve got a roof over my head, and I’ve got the desire and ability to do good in this world.  In short, I’ve got a lot.

Next, I reduced my triggers. I found that when I got into the car and turned on the news my mood would sink, so I started listening to music. Likewise, Facebook and Twitter were sadness destinations, so I took a break.

Finally, I ramped up the self-care: More walking, more baths, more fun reads and silly podcasts, a fancy new coloring book with my own fancy colored pencils, and more time with people that lift me up.

This does not mean I am shirking my responsibility to be a well-informed citizen or viewer of funny cat videos. It means that I have made the choice to do those things that will allow me to act intentionally as opposed to  reacting to all the ills the world has to hold. This is me shifting my mindset so that I can continue the work of healing my body.

Shush, your body is trying to tell you something.

amazing-bodtHi there.

I’ve been thinking about how our bodies are just amazing, so well designed. Now you may be thinking, “I feel like poop, I can’t lose weight, and I have three diagnoses from three different doctors telling me that my body is  definitely not amazing, in fact, my body is broken.”  I get that. I’ve felt broken for a lot of my life, but the truth is that the things that lead me to believe that —  my inability to lose weight, the never having energy, and always feeling like my brain was just in a haze — were actually just my body doing its job really well.

What?!?

Let’s back up. Our bodies are designed to protect us. When we cut our finger our white blood cells rush to the wound to protect us from the bad stuff that can come in. When we are chased by a dog, our brain sets the stress response in motion so we can either fight or fly…um…er…run away. These things ensure that we don’t die from a paper cut or just give up and let the dog eat us. BUT…

BUT…

But when these systems are called on repeatedly they start to damage our body. For example, when we let things into our body that shouldn’t be there, like highly processed food, sugar, cigarette smoke, and other toxins, our bodies creates inflammation to deal with it. And it deals with it and deals with it until our inflammation response gets stuck on attack. Then it starts to attack us…our healthy tissue.  Likewise, when we are chronically stressed, our brain is under the impression that we are being chased by that dog all the time, which means the stress response is suppressing our normal processes, like absorbing and metabolizing our food or burning fat for fuel.

The good news is that our body will usually give us some signs that things are going wrong, but we are horrible at listening to those things. Unfortunately, it often takes us so long to pay attention that we listen only when something scary happens. So listen to your body and take those signs seriously.

In fact, before we getting into the busy time of year, I would encourage you all to stop and take stock of what your body is trying to tell you. Is it overwhelmed with stressed? Is it showing signs of inflammation, like swollen joints, bowel problems, brain fog, etc? For resources on stress management, check this out.  For real food recipes to reduce inflammation you can go here. And if you are interested to see if I can help you listen to your body and get it back in balance contact me here for a free health consultation.

Detox 2: Love your lymphatic system

 

lymphatic

Our lymphatic system is amazing. I think of it as the vacuum of our body, just sucking up all the toxins so our bodies can keep on keeping on.  This system runs throughout our bodies and keeps things flowing by bathing our cells in nutrients, recovering fluid (waste created by our circulatory system), cleaning it up, and returning at a rate of about 3 liters of fluid per day. It also helps our digestive system by taking toxins and pathogens that weren’t Lymphatic_system_(vector).svgdestroyed by the process of digestion out of our gut and either flushing them out or organizing an immune defense against them.

The lymphatic system works with our skin, lungs, colon, liver, and kidneys to remove the toxins coming into our bodies and created by our bodies. This amazing system touches every cell, every organ, every tissue and is vital to life.  If the lymphatic system were to stop, we would become very toxic quickly and die. Unfortunately, the only time this system gets much love is when your doctor goes poking around your neck looking for a poor little lymph node that became inflamed fighting off an infection.

In order to help the lymphatic system do its job, we need to give it a little love. Here are some ways that you can start nourishing your lymphatic system today.

1. Move. Possibly the coolest thing about the lymphatic system is that there is no pump moving the lymph throughout our system so our movement is the pump.   So move, especially when you have been sitting for a long period of time. Even if it’s just a brisk walk or some chair stretching. Better yet, get a sweat going so you can really help your body get those toxins out.  You move = your lymph moves. You sweat = toxins move out of the body.

2. Dry Skin Brushing. Seventy percent of your lymphatic system is located right under your skin.  Before you take your shower or do yoga, get down to your birthday suit and  grab a dry brush like this one. Now brush all over your body, but remember to be considerate of those sensitive areas like nipples. I found this video by a lymphatic drainage therapist and fellow Lupus conquer to be very informative, and it completely changed the way I do my own skin brushing. Bonus: Skin brushing is a great way to improve how your skin looks.

3. Reduce your stress. According to Dr. John Douillard, stress hormones create a very acidic environment which gunks up our lymphatic system’s ability to do its job. I know that this recommendation sounds overwhelming; it did for me for several years. But stress management is paramount to health, and it can be done through little tweaks to our lives. Check out my stress management series here for some practical tips. There’s an added bonus to using deep breathing exercises to de-stress because the lungs are one of those pathways the lymphatic system relies on to get toxins out.

I hope these tips help you to start thinking about how you can support your body’s natural detox processes and provide you with concrete ways to actually do it. Of course, the lymphatic system can’t flush those toxins if the rest of the detox pathways are clogged, so stay tuned to learn more about ways to support those processes as well. For more in this series

 

Lean in to your life!

Alex yoga

Today (Tuesday, July 5th), I have hit the halfway point in my challenge to do a month worth of yoga. This isn’t the first time I’ve done a yoga challenge, but I’ve had an epiphany that might apply to you too, dear reader, even if yoga isn’t your thing.

Lean in rather than backing off when life gets challenging. In the past, when things would get stressful at home/work/what-have-you, I would give myself a break. I would forgo exercising and eating right because something had to give. Right? Wrong! Taking care of yourself is essential when life is hard. By not taking care of myself, I was pulling myself into a vicious cycle: stress, treat my body like crap, get sick and gain weight, stress. Life was just happening to me through a haze of stress and poor health.

Taking time to tend to yourself adds time to your day. I know there are some math whizzes out there that will tell you that that is not possible, but they are wrong. (At least this time.) Another math whiz once said that time is relative, and never is that more clear for me than when I am facing my day/children/random obligations with energy. During the years I was sick, there was just never enough time in the day to get everything done. But now. . . well, I still wish I could get more done, but I have the energy I need to be productive.  Even when that means taking 30 minutes or more out of my day to do something that is just for me.

Find the self-care thing that works for you and commit to it like you do your Netflix account. For this period in my life, yoga has been my go-to. It is helping me heal from a pretty traumatic birth experience, and it’s helping me keep my focus on my goal of living a healthy, productive, and giving life. There might be something else that works for you. Maybe it’s walking with your neighbor, cooking nutritious meals, kickboxing, or something else entirely.  Whatever it is, make it a priority and start leaning in to your life.

 

For those of you who are interested in doing a 30-day yoga challenge, I highly recommend Yoga with Adriene’s free 30-day yoga series on YouTube. Check it out here.

 

Gut health 4: Stressing out our guts.

Source 

Stress is a killer of joy, a robber of your time, and, as it turns out, devastating to your gut health. I’ve written a lot about stress and its effects on your health and tips for managing it, but today I want to take a slightly different approach. The little ecosystem in our guts made up of bacteria, viruses, and fungi (microbiome) aren’t just helping us digest our food and strengthing our immune system.  This ecosystem is actually influencing and being influenced by our brain. Scientists call this the microbiome-brain-gut axis.

Researchers have found that being put under stress affects the make-up of our microbiome.  Under stress, both animals and humans show a decrease in lactobacilli.  This is fine when stress last for just a little while because the microbiome will bounce back, but most of us aren’t dealing with small bouts of stress. Unfortunately, many of us live with chronic low-level stress which means our microbiome doesn’t have the chance to bounce back.

This starts a vicious cycle. “Evidence (shows) that bacteria residing in the gut can also affect central brain function including neurobiological features and behaviors relevant to various psychiatric disorders.”  Basically, our mental state influences the makeup of our microbiome and the microbiome impacts our mental state, which for many of us shows up as anxiety and/or depression. Can you think of a better reason to take care of both? Me neither.  Here are some things you can do to protect your health.

  1. Prioritize stress management! I know that we live in a stressful world, and we are even financially rewarded for being constantly stressed out. I’ve been a part of a work culture where working all hours and heating up your lunch at 3pm only to eat in front of your computer is seen as a symbol of your commitment and dedication. This is crazy! Your stress level is the key to avoiding disease and absorbing nutrients and a hundred other things that create a quality life.  For tips on how to start managing your stress check out my series on the topic.
  2. Watch what goes into your body. So far this series has focused on things to avoid like antibiotics and processed and sugary foods. I’ve also written about keeping your microbiome healthy by increasing your intake of fiber. I’ll be sharing more about what you put into your body and its effects on stress in more detail over the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
I hope these tips are helpful and that you’re inspired to reduce your stress and increase those good bacteria! For more in this series check out parts onetwo and three.

Self-care, dang it!

self-care

I’m taking a break from my gut health series to write about something that has been on my mind: self-care.  Self-care is vital to our health and, in many ways, is the linchpin of creating and sustaining a healthy lifestyle. And while it’s one of those things that is talked about ad nauseam in health blogs and in health-focused magazines, it’s really hard to get people to actually do it.

In fact, self-care might be the most challenging aspect of health for my clients.  I preach it because I know how important it is, but even I can have a hard time incorporating it into my life. In fact, over the last month I’ve not tended to myself at all. And I have excuses. There’s my business and volunteer commitments, unexpected travel, illness, and now a toddler that can scale just about anything.  In the face of all that, I just let self-care fall off the list. And you know what? It did not serve me. Here I was trying to serve everyone else, but I had nothing to give.  I did it; I took care of those diverse needs, but I wasn’t eating as well as I should or exercising enough. I felt overwhelmed; I had very little patience for those around me and  started to seriously feel resentful. I don’t know about you, but this is not how I want to live my life.

Part of the challenge of incorporating self-care into our lives is that we don’t really know how to do it.  When pushed to say what we think it is, we tend to think about eating right and exercising. While there is truth in that, it goes a little deeper.  It’s really about the why and how. Self-care requires a shift in our thinking. We prepare good food or exercise not because we are beating ourselves into submission but because we know that when we eat well and move our bodies we feel better and we can handle our lives with more grace. It’s about turning off the T.V. and the phone at the end of a long day and curling up with a good book so that we can get deeper, more restful sleep. It’s meditating, spending time with friends that lift us up, and paying attention to and managing our stress.  It’s about making those things that build us up and nourish our body and mind a priority.

Here are a few tips for incorporating self-care into your life.

  1. Pick your self-care. Decide on one or two self-care practices you want to work into your life. Maybe it’s just using all that fancy face washing things you got for Christmas or maybe it’s practicing yoga daily. Pick something that will nourish you.
  2. Schedule it. Once you have an idea of what you want to do, put it on your calendar each day and treat it like you would a meeting with your boss.
  3. DO IT! Seriously, you will always have too many things on your list and not enough time. What does it hurt to take half and hour or less to focus on your health? Nothing. It hurts nothing.

If you need help figuring out how to get self-care into your life or are ready to transform your health, contact me for a free consultation. 

Green and blue smoothie

 

yumy

My whole family has been fighting off the plague. Okay, it’s probably not the plague.  Actually, it was baby’s-first-week-in-daycare-and-she-brought-back-a-bunch-of-weird-little-kid-germ thing. You’ve probably heard of it. Little kid germs are some tough suckers, so we spent the weekend resting and eating healing foods like bone broth and shots of Fire Cider for my husband and me.  We are on the mend, but I’m taking extra care to nourish and support my immune system.  One method of support is this lovely smoothie, which is full of things my body needs like avocado, banana, flaxseed, spinach, blueberries, and a touch of coconut milk.  I chose these ingredients because 1.) I had them and 2.) they have powerful nutrients that I felt my body needed.

Avocado — The heart healthy fat in avocados helps the body to absorb all the nutrients that are going into this smoothie, making it a great base.

Banana — The sweetness in a banana is a great reason to add it to a smoothie, but it has so many other benefits. Bananas have vitamins, minerals, and fiber our bodies need, and they help to keep a good balance of Bifidobacteria in our lower intestines, which in turn keeps our guts healthy. Healthy gut = healthy you.

Blueberries — These also add sweetness and turn the smoothie a lovely purple all while delivering antioxidants, vitamin K and C and more beneficial fiber.

Spinach — Spinach is a powerhouse and a great source of greens for people that are watching their intake of cruciferous vegetables. In addition to all the lovely vitamins and minerals, research seems to show that spinach helps to protect the lining of our gut from inflammation.

Flaxseed — Adding ground flaxseed to anything you eat is a great way to get a big dose of omega-3 fatty acids, a fat that helps with all manner of things. It helps reduce inflammation and lower triglyceride levels. Researchers believe it may even protect us from Alzheimer’s. Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential part of my diet.

Green and blue smoothie

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: silly easy
  • Print

In your blender, blend together the following:

  1. 1/2 avocado
  2. 1 banana
  3. 2 handfuls of washed baby spinach
  4. 1 cup frozen blueberries
  5. 1.5 TBS ground flaxseed (optional)
  6. 1/4 cup pineapple (optional)
  7. the contents of 1 probiotic capsule (optional)
  8. enough coconut milk or other non-dairy milk to turn the ingredients into a smoothie.
  9. 1 to 2 tsp of hemp seeds to top it off
  10. Enjoy!

 

Stress Part 5: And sometimes its out of your hands….

ozatlasUntil now I’ve dedicated this series to managing the stress we can control, but the reality is that sometimes there is stress that is outside of our control. Maybe it’s the heartache of ending a relationship or the everyday strain of caring for a dying loved one.  Just living in this world and being somewhat aware of current events is enough to send us all hiding under the covers. Just the other day, my sweet little girl told me that she prefers lockdown drills (the drills they do at schools in case of a mass shooter) in her art class because the floor is more comfortable. I wanted to grab her and run home and hide for the rest of our lives. But I didn’t, and, no matter how heavy these external stressors are, we don’t. We all have to go about our lives with significant weights tied around our neck.

Our bodies are designed to react to stress so that we can survive things like wild animals attacking us. When our ancestors were being hunted by a saber-tooth tiger, their bodies would release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol that shut down processes like digestion and the immune system and switched the body’s energy source to glucose (sugar). All of this was a way to divert the body’s energy to the task of getting away alive. But we aren’t dealing with a saber-tooth tiger that we can get away from and then allow our body to go back to normal. We are dealing with stressors that don’t let up, and so we experience chronic stress, meaning these hormones are being constantly released.

For those of us with chronic stress, we experience difficulty sleeping (your body won’t let you sleep if you need to be on guard against danger), inability to lose weight (our bodies burn sugar under chronic stress, which puts us in a cycle of burning and eating foods that can be easily converted into glucose while our fat stores stay untouched), and we have digestion problems (our body prioritize getting away over digesting when we are in danger).  With our bodies in a state of constant vigilance, it’s no surprise that so many of us are sick, overweight, and drained.

We can’t magically make someone love us or heal their broken body, and we can’t stop all the horrible things happening in the world. But we can do things to mitigate the impact of those things on our lives and on our bodies.

  1. Manage what you can. In part 1 through 4 of this series, I’ve provided several tips on how to reduce manageable stress. By adjusting those things you can control, you reduce your overall stress burden.
  2. Connect with others. Healthy friendships allow us to process things we are going through because we have someone to listen to us. Hanging out with a best friend has shown to actually reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
  3. Tap into your spirituality. For some of us, this might just mean getting more involved in our church, synagogue, or mosque. For others this might mean going for a hike, meditating, or some other practice that reminds us that our problems and the state of the world are just temporary.
  4. Breathe deeplyBy practicing deep breathing several times throughout your day, you give your body a break from the stress response and clear your head.  Find time to take a breath through your nose for a count of four, hold it for a count of seven, and then release it through your nose for count of eight, and then repeat for 5 to 10 cycles. 

Stress is a part of our lives no matter how privileged we are, but we don’t have to allow it to run our lives and ruin our health. I hope this series has motivated you to take control over your stress and has helped you create a more healthy life.

For more post in this series, check out  Stress Part 1: Stop letting stress steal your joyStress Part 2:What if it is your circus and those are your monkeysStress Part 3:Sometimes you have to rethink the whole thing.  Stress Part 4: Don’t feed the stress. 

Stress Part 4: Don’t feed the stress.

Pie_eating_contest_1923So far this series has dealt with stress in a very traditional way, but today we are going to switch gears and talk about something we don’t immediately associate with stress: the stress we put our body under when we overindulge.

Overindulging on food is part of our celebration culture. Our traditions mostly mean gathering with people we love and an abundance of delicious food. So we eat . . . and eat. We pile our plates with all sorts of celebratory delectables two or even two and a half times, and we eat way past the point of being full. Or as  Louis C. K. put it, “I don’t stop eating when I’m full. The meal isn’t over when I’m full. It’s over when I hate myself.”

We overindulge as a form of celebration, but the problem is, my friends, we can always find a reason to celebrate. And all this overindulging stresses our bodies out.

Overeating means the body has to work extra hard to digest all that food. Your blood supply is diverted to help your digestive system move the extra food leaving less blood for things like your brain. Your brain! And your pancreas has to produce loads of insulin to deal with all that extra sugar flooding in from things like rolls, sweet potato casserole,  and pie. Insulin produced under the stress of too much food means the pancreas does a fast and dirty job.  And it doesn’t stop until it clears the body of all sugar, which means we now have low blood sugar.

Low blood sugar can leave us confused, tired, and even depressed. Our body directs us to fix these problems by eat more sugar. Thus a horrible cycle that taxes our endocrine system and has us reaching for all the wrong foods is born. This cycle will not be done when the celebrating is over. In fact this is the cycle many of us struggle with on a daily basis. Our bodies are trying to find homeostasis, or balance and stability, but we haven’t given it the right fuel to do that. So we pack on the pounds and feel guilty that we can’t drop weight (causing even more stress), not realizing that a very real chemical battle is being waged which no low-calorie snack food is going to win.

So on this eve of Christmas Eve, I’m making a plea with you. Let’s stop that celebration = overindulgence madness and find some balance. Here are some tips I think will help.

  1. Set intentions- Before you even get to the table, set the intention to enjoy your food, to make the best choices you can, and to eat only until you are full (or just before).
  2. Breath– The first few minutes of a big meal can be chaos. We are rushing to get all the food on the table or to get the kids and elderly relatives situated. Once that’s all done, we just jump in and start grabbing and eating food in that same hurried state. So before you sit down to your own meal, calm yourself by take some good, deep breaths to bring yourself into the present.
  3. Slow down– Chewing is something we don’t do enough, which means we aren’t actually tasting much of all the food we are pushing down our throats. Chew slowly. Allow all the digestive enzymes in your mouth to do their job thereby taking pressure off the stomach and the intestines.
  4. Listen to your body– The truth is that we will hear our body at some point after the meal when we realize our pants are uncomfortable or we are so tired we can’t keep our eyes open. Why not try listening to your body before you get to that point? The first three steps will help you to do this, but getting good at hearing what your body says before it screams at you takes some practice.

The stress we put our body through when overindulging isn’t all that physiologically different from the stress we experience from taking on too many activities or being ruled by our phone. Overindulging releases the same stress hormones as all those outside stressors. The key is to eating in a way that will make you feel good after the meal by making the best choices available on the table, eat consciously, and eat only as much as you need.

Happy celebrating!

For more post in this series check out  Stress Part 1: Stop letting stress steal your joyStress Part 2:What if it is your circus and those are your monkeysStress Part 3:Sometimes you have to rethink the whole thing. 

Stress Part 3: Sometimes you just have to rethink the whole thing.

Christmas_tree_farm_fire

Stress is often caused by the clash between our expectations and our reality. This is especially true at this time of the year.  Sometime around Thanksgiving, I start to imagine all the Christmas magic I’m going to have with the kids. I’m going to read one of our Christmas books every night. We are going to listen to Christmas music, decorate, bake cookies, and do all that stuff that you see in Christmas montages on those Hallmark movies.

But bedtime is still kind of crazy, and the older one would rather read Star Wars while the younger one would rather just eat the Christmas book. The tree did get up and decorated, but I can’t really remember doing that, so it must not have been very picturesque. There has been no baking. And I’m stressed! I’m trying to cram the Christmas magic into an already full schedule, and those attempts are falling short of giving my kids the perfect Christmas. What’s going to happen when Mommy ruins Christmas!?!?!

Breathe!

Am I going to ruin Christmas, or am I just not getting my way? I’m afraid it is the latter. The reality is that my kids are happy. My oldest is totally excited about Christmas, and my youngest is enjoying eating her Christmas books. Everyone is happy. When I just stop and realize that and let go of those crazy expectations, I let go of that stress, too. For me, the key to this comes down to living in the moment.

Tips for living in the moment

  • Take a social media fast. Logout of all your social media networks for a few days or at least step away for a while. Social media tends to fuel our feeling of failure. We see our friends’ posts of perfect homemade Christmas magic, and we just see our own failings.
  • Do less. You heard me! In this crazy hustle and bustle season, I’m telling you to do less.  If you can’t get everything done on your to-do list, then it’s too long. Cut it down to the essentials and make peace with the things that fall off the list. The earth will not be thrown into chaos if the beds aren’t all made, those Christmas cards don’t go out, or those cookies never get baked.
  • Evaluate your expectations. This isn’t the first Christmas that I’ve had visions of a perfect Christmas season, and it’s certainly not the first time I’ve been sadly off.  Examining why we tend to follow the same cycle over and over again only to be disappointed gives us the power to stop the cycle. Are these really things I want or is it what I think I want?
  • Be present for that magic that does happens. I really do believe in Christmas magic, even if it’s just that the whole city has gotten together to string up lights and step outside the everyday world to celebrate for a few weeks. Things — good things — and opportunities do happen when we aren’t trying to make them. Be relaxed and present enough to enjoy these times.

As always, I hope these ideas inspire you to take control of your stress so that you can enjoy your life and take care of your body.

For more post in this series check out Stress Part 1: Stop letting stress steal your joy and Stress Part 2:What if it is your circus and those are your monkeys.  Stress Part 4: Don’t feed the stress.

Stress Part 2: What if it is your circus and those are your monkeys?

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Our first strategy for dealing with stress was to reduce unnecessary distractions. Step two in reducing stress is reining in an out of control schedule.

A significant source of stress comes from those things that we want to do but have gotten out of hand and started to take over our life. Many of us raise our hands whenever a call goes out for an extra project at work or volunteer organization. We do it because we want to help out or serve or just show our boss that we are invested in our job. But all too often, we get into the habit of raising our hand automatically. Eventually others start to rely on us as the one that will always bake the cookies or do the social media research or whatever is needed, and a horrible cycle of stress is born. So what do we do when we want to be involved and serve without it taking over our lives? Here are a few tricks that I try to employ.

Keep your calendar up-to-date: When it comes to committing to projects, I can be a gunslinger, a say-yes-now-ask-questions-later kind of gal. This means I can say yes to several things at once without realizing it.  A simple way to prevent this is to keep your calendar updated and on your person. When the call goes out for someone to lead/do/orchestrate something, you pause, look at your calendar, and, if you are legitimately unengaged, then you can consider it. If you are otherwise engage, the question of volunteering is already answered: No.

Schedule self-care: Now that you have your calendar all up-to-date, you need to start scheduling self-care. This could be your workouts, time to take a bath, or just time to sit in your room and stare at the wall. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s time for restoration. Make these appointments, and then keep them as diligently as you would a doctor’s appointment.

Say yes strategically: Say yes to those things that you have always wanted to do, things that are passion projects, or things that just really excite you. Do not say yes just because no one else has. If you are the only one saying yes in your group/job/family then either the group/job/family doesn’t actually prioritize that task or someone else needs to step up. Either way, you aren’t overloading yourself with things you’d rather not be doing.

As always, I hope these ideas inspire you to take control of your stress so that you can enjoy your life and take care of your body.

For more post in this series check out Stress Part 1: Stop letting stress steal your joy and Stress Part 3:Sometimes you have to rethink the whole thing. Stress Part 4: Don’t feed the stress.

 

Stress Part 1: Stop letting stress steal your joy

texting tooStress is a part of everyone’s life, but the high levels of stress we experience are extremely dangerous.  Chronic stress can lead to all kinds of diseases, negatively impacts our relationships, and taints even our best experiences. For example, many of us even dread the holidays because this season adds extra heartburn rather than being a time to relax and renew with family and friends and take joy in familiar rituals.

Stress is a killer of joy. So why do we make the choice every day to let joy be killed? Yes, there are times when stress is outside our control, but chronic stress is an accumulation of those things that we can control and those things that we can’t. When we work on reducing the things we can control, managing our overall stress is much easier. One easy way to do this is to stop letting your phone and email be your master.

Stress Reducer Tip #1: Turn off your notifications! Text and emails come in all day long, and, like Pavlov’s dog, we jump to respond.  Research shows that this type of multitasking makes us less productive, but more importantly it adds stress to our day. Go into your phone or email settings and turn those notifications off!  If you can’t figure out your setting find the nearest young person and set them to the task. Then start to manage expectations for yourself and others by letting it be known that you only check your messages at a set time each day, but if they have something urgent to tell you than they can call you or swing by your office.  By doing this we take control over our day and the stress we allow in our lives.

Let me know if this is something that resonates with you and, if you give it a whirl, how it worked for you. Good luck!

For more post in this series check out  Stress Part 2:What if it is your circus and those are your monkeysStress Part 3:Sometimes you have to rethink the whole thing.  Stress Part 4: Don’t feed the stress. 

photo credit: Texting on a Tractor via photopin (license)