Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Letting Go, Metaphor and Motivation

Last night I replaced my Mom hat for my Doctor hat to remove my daughter's two stitches. Her little sister held a reading lamp over the cut and sang songs to comfort her big sister. It was a group effort as we opened up the Kinzer Stitch Removal Services, and she was my brave little daughter, trusting me to dig into her wound. My daughter was told the removal of her stitches wouldn't hurt but as it turns out, it can hurt if the stitches have to be dug into. This was our second removal attempt, and the first try ended unsuccessfully with two stitches still in and a traumatized little six-year old.

So there I am with sterilized metal equipment and telling her to stay still as I try to clip the medical thread that held together her cut for the last two weeks. She cried out, "Get me a doctor, just take me to the doctor!" Her pleading was almost enough to make me change my mind, but I knew what had to be done. The song, "I need a Doctor" repeated in my head.

No one wants their child to hurt, let alone to be the one doing it. But they were non-dissoluble stitches, and we knew they had to come out. And it seemed they were getting more difficult to remove each day. As outsiders, we know the big picture with stitches. We know it is necessary.

What needs to be removed from your life to get you to the next level? What is going to hurt? What is uncomfortable but necessary? What keeps hurting you? What do you do that is not in the big picture of your future life? What can you let go of? 

The metaphor is huge. Transformation can be painful. Removing things is painful, even if it's hurting you. Change is hard. But sometimes things, habits, people MUST come out of your life. We have to get through the pain in order to properly heal, we have to get rid of things in order to fly.

Just like a mother bird must watch her little baby bird fly from the nest for the first time. Just like you must separate from your little child on their first day of school. We watch our loved ones, just as the universe watches our painful transformations. Fear can stop us dead in our tracks, but looking at the big picture is necessary for our transformation. I saw the big picture (removing the stitches) but my poor little daughter was just thinking of the fear. Can you see from the observer's eyes, the big picture?

Just like you clean out your closet and wa-la, you make room for new clothes. Just like you let go of things you don't need when you move into a new house. When you let go of the non-serving things in your life, you make room for the new, the better, the improved. Consider if the caterpillar refused his transformation, we wouldn't have butterflies.

It might hurt. It might be scary. It might leave us frightened of the future, of our finances, of our mental stability, of our material hooks. But just remember, there will always be rewards, there will always be risks, there will always be mountains made of molehills and there will always be discomfort in change. Even there can be discomfort in holding on. But just remember, there's liberation on the other side of change.

My message today is short, let go of what does not serve your greatest happiness. We are creatures of joy. Seek out your joy. Seek out your bliss. You are innately happy. What are you doing that blocks your sensation of joy?

Breath deep and let it go. Decide what the thing is, and hit the Delete button.

Much love!!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Wanted: Rest and Digest Mode, um...NOW!!!!

Time moves at super warp speed. And because time moves so fast, our thoughts and decisions move fast.One Facebook posts sends us unfriending in anger, one thought can make us want to cry in our bed, one comment can crush our esteem. Don't let that happen to you.  This fast moving energy can be for your benefit or your detriment. It's sink or swim time, baby! This means you must keep yourself up, mentally and physically, so you don't get trampled in the downward spiral of the drama of a stress-induced life. Your solution: The nemesis of an over-worked mind and body: Welcome Rest and Digest Mode.

Rest and Digest mode is where rejuvenation of the human body occurs. It's where the "bad" cells are kicked to the curb. Rest and digest is the opposite of fight or flight mode. Rest and Digest is where magic fairy dust is sprinkled upon your organs and tissues, it's where health happens. Rest and digest, or parasympathetic mode, is where your body feels "at the beach" like everything is OK and there is nothing to fear. It's where you see your life as an observer and you can decide what you behaviors you want to change.  Your goal is to find this feeling place everyday, more moments than not. Your job is to sooth your body into that place.

How to Release the Stress and Get On with Living
There are millions of ways to reduce stress, but these are tried and tested by me like a charm. Thus, my immune system is stronger, my actions are intentional instead of reactive, and my direction is life is forward instead of sporadic and circular. Physically, it means my digestion is more on point, my body is not holding onto toxins and I can think with a rational head. Awe. Life is so much better on the other side of stress.

  • Soothe your thoughts like you would to a little child. I think the most powerful way we avoid stress is with controlling our thoughts. Notice when you think something that doesn't feel good, you know it because your emotions change. Then switch the negative thought to something that feels better. Make excuses for yourself, soften the blows of anger you send to yourself. Every one of your cells responds to each thought you think, it creates biological chemicals based on what you're thinking. So be kind. Create a mantra that sends the message to your body that "everything is OK." Don't think for a second that high-level CEO's and professional athletes are wasting their time thinking negative thoughts about themselves. If they were, they wouldn't have succeeded. Think Responsibly. The article, How Your Thoughts Program Your Cells, explains it this way:
    There are thousands upon thousands of receptors on each cell in our body. Each receptor is specific to one peptide, or protein. When we have feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, excitement, happiness or nervousness, each separate emotion releases its own flurry of neuropeptides. Those peptides surge through the body and connect with those receptors which change the structure of each cell as a whole. Where this gets interesting is when the cells actually divide. If a cell has been exposed to a certain peptide more than others, the new cell that is produced through its division will have more of the receptor that matches with that specific peptide. Likewise, the cell will also have less receptors for peptides that its mother/sister cell was not exposed to as often.
  • Move. Anytime we can be inside our body, through exercise and movement, we can reaffirm to our body that we don't want to hold onto negative emotions. So move your body - walk, do yoga, throw a one-man dance party, try a handstand or drop and do ten push ups. So, take up Tai Chi or kickboxing, or my favorite - get in the box and do some Crossfit. If you like being alone, find an activity you can do solo. Hiking is an activity where I can be alone but I don't feel lonely. This physical movement moves negative energy OUT while welcoming in endorphins and positive thoughts.
  • Breathe and sigh. Your breath is your connection (internal world) to the
    environment (eternal world.) If your external world is stressful, how does your body pick up on that? The majority of it is through your breathing. Remember to sigh it out or focus on your breath for a few seconds. Work on making your exhales twice as long as your inhales, while you pull in your gut to get it all out. Release the carbon dioxide and toxins through long, meaningful exhales. Give your body oxygen and it will reward you by keeping your spirts up and your digestion flowing. Try taking three deep breaths before, during and after your meals. This way you can get full on life and then you can relax your intestinal nervous system to avoid an upset stomach and poorly assimilated nutrients.
  • Count Your Blessings. We're beyond-privileged in the Western world. Two cars per household, clean running water, a refrigerator and freezer (sometimes two!) a cozy, safe home, clean air to breath, the ability to think your own thoughts, satin sheets to mold to our bodies, police and ambulances one three digit dial away, unlimited possibilities at our fingertips to create businesses, free will to write blogs and books on any topic. Airplanes to fly us across the world, Amazon to ship a product in two days.Holy crap! Can you recognize that? Gratitude brings about a hormonal cascade of dopamine and serotonin to soothe you. Start waking up thinking of 5 things you're grateful for, right away in the morning. Gratitude can create a bliss state because it points your focus in the direction of appreciation which brings you to joy. And where your attention goes, things grow.
  • Put your legs up the wall, damit. This is one thing I find so much peace through. Because life does not give us the ability to go to yoga class or walk away from my screaming kids in order to change our mood. You can't rely on your circumstances to change your mood, that only works a portion of the time. All you need is a wall or just the floor. But get your legs up above your heart and just breathe. You want to get the blood flowing to your brain and heart again, and this sends fresh blood to those areas. I sometimes do this before bed for restful sleep or when I need to read a book for school. Putting your legs up the wall activates rest and digest mode within 5 minutes and you'll feel it. I pinky swear. 
Last Thoughts
Have you ever heard of muscle testing? Known also as Applied Kinesiology, during muscle testing, when you say a sentence, or have a patient hold a product, the body responds physically by becoming weaker or stronger? There's a measurable response, and the client doesn't even have to know what product or sentence is being tested. I've seen this with my kids. When they get angry and irrational, they get clumsy, often tripping over their own feet. They've weakened their senses with negative emotions. So realize that with every thought you have the opportunity to become stronger or to weaken you systemically.

Just to finalize: get better digestion, a happy body and a clear mind with happy thoughts, moving your body, breathing deeply and minding your mind. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Physiology of Stress

This is part 2 of the stress blog I wrote, referenced here
When a gazelle is being chased in the African safari by a cheetah, there are 3 topics that come to mind in order to save it's life.

1) The body  
2) The environment 
3) Time 

The Physiology of Stress
As humans, we can relate to these animal instincts. We obsess over the same things during times of stress. Our body (why is my hair falling out, our reflection in the mirror). Our environment (what are the people doing around me, am I going to be harmed, can I get away). And time (when do I need to leave, when will this be over, how long until the big day.)

The big difference is that as humans, we live inside the illusion of this constant stress-state. The gazelle will relax and begin grazing in the grass after he escaped death, and return to his relaxed, parasympathetic mode within fifteen minutes. As humans, we wake up to an alarm and we're out the door returning to all things unnerving, subject to everyday noises of sirens, cell phone notifications, the demands of life. As over-worked Americans, we have deadlines, job transitions, heartburn and coffee spills on our shirts. We reach a breaking point several times during the day. Then we disconnect from life by turning on The Walking Dead and shows that invoke a stress response just from the visual assault. Even trivial, normal life experiences like not getting a close parking spot, like the wind blowing, the new coworker who's stole your thunder- they all keep us up-regulated in our stress response and getting us closer to fight or flight mode.

We are told all day long by commercials and media that we are stressed for time and need to pay for house cleaning and lawn and tax services. We freak out when there is a car accident, instead of feeling the emotions of empathy for the people involved and gratitude for the fire trucks, police and ambulance for helping. Our heads are so screwed into stress mode that radical experiences don't effect us like they should. Stress causes us to become self-centered because we are after-all, in survival mode - where our body thinks its on the brink of death. Stress is a self-serving mechanism, it shuts off long-term thoughts and it has no care for the emotions of other people. 

The Physical
Doctors confirm 70-95% of all illness and disease is caused by stress. So consider the underlying reason you are calling to schedule your doctors visit. Yes, even that seemingly obnoxious cold you caught, or the seasonal allergies you suffer from are from a burdened immune system. When your immune system is up-regulated,  from the hormones of stress running a muck in your bloodstream, your body is out of homeostasis and you get knocked onto your sick bed.

Physical processes that get out of wack under stress:
  • Decreased sex hormones
  • Decreased nutrient absorption due to nutrients being excreted out before they get into the cell
  • Increased oxidative stress (advanced aging)
  • Increased insulin resistance 
  • Increased inflammation
  • Decreased kidney function
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Increased blood cholesterol
  • Increased salt retention
  • Increased cortisol
  • Decreased gut flora (good bye digestion)
  • Decreased oxygen supply
  • Decreased thermic effeciency
  • Decreased hydrochloric acid (stomach acid)
  • Decreased growth hormone
  • Decreased T4/T3 (thyroid hormone)
  • Slowed gastric emptying
  • Increased food sensitivity/allergies

How could we NOT get sick with all these human systems going haywire.

After the stress response is activated, reactions to life become unstable based on your perceived focus. When you're stressed, you stop being living in the present moment, you say things you don't mean AND you are a total space cadet.  Under stress, people have conversations with you that you aren't fully vested in and you miss most of what they say. Mental disconnect is a bi-product of the stress induced trance we live inside. You're thinking of your upset client and how someone else eff-ed up the deal and you have to fix it. You're thinking about the ding on your credit and wondering if it means you won't get approved for a loan. You're thinking about this big stuff and your kids are asking for hugs and play time. The whole while, you miss the point completely- you're disconnected and your kids want you. You're missing out on the joy of life, and even your kids are trying to give it to you. In the confines of stress, it seems like there' no way out, that  no one else's problem is as big as yours and there's nothing anyone can do to help. It keeps you trapped there, living joy-lessly. It hurts. It hurts your emotional self, your health and the people you come into contact with.

Chronic Stress
Stress is Automatic. We don't push a stress button to invoke it. We don't have a pill to bring on our stress. Instead, without effort, our body initiates "go-for-launch" mode as fast as you think one thought. That one thought propels you into the sprint of fight or flight mode, using just your imaginative mind. There are major things, like getting called in your boss' office during rumors of lay offs. Realizing you left the rice cooking on the stove and you're half an hour away from home. Realizing someone your husband works with is trying to sleep with your husband. Then there are thoughts of unworthiness, or thinking of how someone hurt you days ago. The perceived ideas of the mind, or the everyday stresses, both cause a chemical reaction in your body, not much different than eating toxic food, binge drinking or taking drugs. Your cells respond negatively to mental assaults, just as painfully as the physical ones.

Super Stress: Fight or Flight
Fight or Flight mode gets turned on without deliberate intent. Fight or Flight is what happens when stress is taken to the extreme, its like a black hole you can't think your way out of. But, good news here, fight or flight gets activated automatically. We don't have to put on our workout pants or draw out detailed escape plans; instead our body responds on a dime to release our super human traits. But over time and repeated activation, this response system gets worn down. You become used to the car alarm and the heavy caseload at work and you daily life becomes unknowingly-dedicated to the constant stimulus. If you stay in fight or flight mode too long, your system adapts to the high levels of cortisol, resistant to it and subservient to its damaging effects. Hello adrenal fatigue. Not only can people not lose weight in chronic stress mode, but they gain fat despite a clean diet and healthy eating because the body is not thriving, it's running the hamster wheel at super warp speed. When cortisol is in your system long term, you're bordering on insulin resistance. On top of that, high levels of stress cause some of us (guilty!) to overeat in order to get comfort, to release the stress. Never helpful for weight loss efforts. 

Stress and Body Fat
Fight or flight mode helps us survive by sending extra blood to our limbs so we can run, stopping digestion so we don't waste energy on needless places, it heightens our senses so we can see further and run faster. Yes, the fight or flight mode makes us ALL super human despite how long its been since we worked out. Women have been known to lift entire cars off their children to save their life. Survival mode helps save us and our loved ones, but modern times keep us in a hold under the drowning waters of stress. Stress pulls all available glucose (blood sugar) into the bloodstream to make sure you're ready to outrun danger. But when you're stressed out of your mind, and sitting watching The Walking Dead or stressing about a friendship you screwed up, all that sugar gets pumped into your body, inviting diabetes and blood sugar imbalances. Then gets dumped into your fat cells. And your liver is not going to be burning up fat, i.e. you're not going to be loosing weight when you're stressed out because your body is worried about keeping you alive. To your body, it's about the BIG picture.

Reacting Drunk
Think of drunk people, hyper-reactive to everything. Then the next morning, the now hung over person wakes up confused, not sure what logic they used when they said dumb things and acted out of character. Their body and mind were hijacked. Stress does the same thing - it seizes your body and makes your reactions automatic and selfish, instead of intentional. Don't let stress hijack your thoughts and behavior. When you're stressed out, you are not thinking with logic and reason, you're thinking within the  confines of survival mode. Manage your stress so you can stay inside your body and aware of everything going on. When you are aware, you are in control of your life. Lucky for you: you decide how you feel and react to any situation. Bad situations will always come your way, people will unfriend you on Facebook, traffic is inevitable, those things are unavoidable. Accept that it's not the situations that need to change, but instead YOUR REACTIONS to them.

Solution Time:
Weight loss happens in Rest and Digest Mode. Anytime you sleep, you relax, you are taking deep breaths- you're letting your body know it's OK to repair the system and release extra weight. You're letting your body know that the world is a safe place and there's nothing chasing you.  So don't feel lazy for spending 30 minutes reading a book or sleeping in. Feel confident that relaxation is you in fat burning mode. Stay tuned for my next blog on How to Reach Rest and Digest Mode.

Just know this.  YOU are unique and needed in the world. You are needed to be your best self, and your best self is present and caring toward others. Your best self is not the one worried, angry, unworthy, revengeful, or dishonest. Those are the emotions of stress and they aren't serving you. Not now, not later. They are keeping you in a holding pattern, so nip 'em in the bud.

Want more on Stress, my older post: