Reading Material: Getting Comfortable with Discomfort

Photo by Lia Leslie
Photo by Lia Leslie

This weekend’s reading material theme is getting comfortable with discomfort.

To start us off, check out Reid Wilson‘s new blog on Psychology Today – his latest post is titled “Winning the Battle Inside Your Mind”. It’s the story of how Reid, a psychologist & anxiety expert, worked through his own experience of panic, finding a way to Keep Going when his brain was shouting inside to stop.

Next up we have Leo Babauta from Zen Habits. I love the title of this post – “Discomfort Zone: How to Master the Universe“. I saved this to Pocket a while ago & find myself referencing his ideas whenever I need a boost. If you can master that everyday moment of discomfort – whether it’s anxiety, procrastination or prioritizing what’s important -nothing will stop you from achieving your goals and living a big life.

Finally, check out: “How Exercise Shapes You, Far Beyond the Gym“. In it, Brad Stulberg reminds us that what we gain most from exercise isn’t just physical fitness – it’s the ability to sit with and even embrace discomfort in life whenever it pops up. And, if you didn’t get a chance to read Healthy Habits in September, there are many more links to articles on the benefits of exercise & meditation in combatting depression & anxiety.

Happy Reading and have a beautiful weekend!

Healthy Habits

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In the rush of September, I’ve been thinking more about what makes me feel my best and what kind of daily habits I consistently follow.  In my head, I’m a person who meditates, exercises, prioritizes relationships and creates time for myself, but in actuality, I tend to go to bed way too late, skip meditating because I missed my “window of opportunity” and get my work done at home in front a computer screen instead of getting out and being with people.

A few days ago, though, I stole away for 15 minutes and meditated between getting my older two kids out the door. After walking the youngest to school, I got a text from a friend asking if I could go for a walk. A chance for exercise and social contact – yes! We walked for over an hour, caught up and discussed an upcoming project. I came back home feeling so much more energized with a happy outlook on life.

It’s not rocket science, right? But somehow it becomes difficult to make time for self care – even when we know that taking care of ourselves makes us happier people, easier to live with and more productive to boot. Seems like lots of folks have been thinking about how healthy habits like meditation, movement and sleep can affect overall health and outlook.

Here are a few reads to check out this week:

*I popped onto a blog I like called Hey Sigmund the other day and followed a link to this article on how exercise and mindfulness meditation can significantly drop rates of depression. The study referenced looked at how a consistent course of exercise and meditation effected people with and without symptoms of depression. Check out the link to see what they discovered & then also look at this article on exercise and anti-depressants.

*Taking exercise farther, Outside magazine online talks about finding ways to add movement throughout your work day. It’s not that getting an hour run in the morning doesn’t cut it, it’s just that slow, constant motion throughout the day, in a variety of positions, can greatly increase our overall health and wellbeing.

*Katy Bowman, who is interviewed in the above article, show us here how she lives a movement based lifestyle. Yes, a little hippy for sure, but I really enjoy her fresh perspective.

*The Chopra Center discusses the benefits of exercise, meditation and healthy eating for anxiety reduction.

*And two articles on sleep and anxiety plus this one from one of my favorite doctors!

*Need help finding ways to make your habits stick? Gretchen Rubin has a few free downloads to help us on our way.

How about you? What makes you feel your best and what’s stopping you from making those healthy habits a part of your daily life?

Reading Material

Photo by Lia Leslie

Here are a few reads for your weekend or to start your week off right.  Pour yourself a cup of coffee or green tea and cozy on up.

ABC News talks about which exercises are best for anxiety. Although, the ADAA reminds us that just getting your body moving – especially cardio – makes a big difference.

Research shows that mindfulness meditation can reduce overall anxiety and rewire the way our brains work. Here’s a nice overview as well.

Speaking of meditation, have you read Dan Harris’s book “10 Percent Happier”?  A national news anchor, he talks about having a panic attack on live television and what he did to get to a place of confidence again.

I’ve been meditating a lot more these days, so that means more links for you!

Love this infographicSharon Salzberg, and this great article on the reality of taking up a meditation practice.

Exercise and Anxiety

I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been really noticing the positive effects of exercise on my mood and energy level these past few months. I’m not knocking yoga or a good power walk, but it’s the days where I get some good cardio in and really sweat that seem to make the biggest difference. This is not new information in the world of anxiety and health, but it’s interesting how difficult it is to prioritize self care.

Between taking care of three children and getting a second wind around 10pm, I can find lots of reasons to turn my alarm off at 6am. Frequently my husband and I will say to each other, “Ok, this is the week we’re going to bed by 10:30pm and getting up early!” Signing up for a couple triathlons this summer certainly helped get me up in the morning, but my motivation can dwindle when race season is complete and daylight grows shorter. When I’m tired and not exercising, the world seems more overwhelming and my wheels spin.

This week, I’ve made a new pact with my husband to go to bed by 11pm-ish and I’ve gotten up the past five mornings to exercise. Depending on how much time I have, I’m doing a mix of running a faster 2-3 miles (a 10 minute mile is speedy for me); a favorite 20 minute video; swimming; and biking with a friend on the weekends. Even a little dance break in the day can help my body and brain play nice.

What’s changed? I had to sit myself down during the daytime hours and say, “Look, girl, this is good for you & it makes you feel so much better! You are not going to find time to exercise after 7am. Now get your butt to bed! Whatever still needs doing can wait until tomorrow!” Again, while exercise and enough sleep does not make anxiety go away for me, it helps make it more manageable by using up some of that super-power adrenaline and starting each day with a more rested brain.

Will I be singing a different tune, next week? Perhaps, but accountability is a good motivator, too! What effect does enough sleep and exercise have on your mental health and outlook? What’s working for you?

Slow & Steady Wins the Race

So, I’ve got a pretty big birthday coming up this fall – the big 4-0! As it approaches, I’ve wondered what I could do to mark this milestone. Should I take a big trip? (did that this spring), throw a party? (maybe) and then I came across a calendar of summer triathlons & an idea sparked in my head.

Before having children, I completed a handful of sprint distance triathlons & LOVED them! Truth be told, I’m really pretty slow in all areas of the event, but I love the thrill of completing such a goal. I also love the feeling of being fit & strong. Looking back at pictures, I was always the one with a huge goofy grin on my face as I, first and foremost, made it out of the water alive, cruised along on my bike or leisurely brought it home with the run, sprinting a bit at the very end. Slow and steady wins the race is definitely my motto!

My goal this summer, then, was to complete an all women’s, sprint distance triathlon in early August; get fit in time to transition to 40; and have fun doing this with a group of fabulous girl friends.

What a great experience this has been!

In some ways, this training made me feel like a kid again & at the same time reminded me of my age. Floating on my back after a good swim & looking at the clouds go by; jumping on my bike & catching up with a girlfriend while we fly down hills (and creep up them); feeling strong with my 12 minute mile “run” pace (yes, I could probably walk faster). I’m also reminded that I’m getting older with an overuse muscle tear that doesn’t want to go away and how I’m always checking in with my body to make sure I don’t over do it. I gotta tell you, though, I was at a triathlon this summer to cheer on some friends & saw an 84 year old woman out there competing. It reminded me that despite the fact we can’t turn back the clock, we can choose how we take care of ourselves and respond to aging. I want to be that fit 84 year old woman, out there participating fully in life.

Since this is an anxiety blog, I was also curious how the increased exercise would affect my mood & anxiety levels in general. What I noticed was that when I skipped a day or two of workouts, I felt more edgy and irritable. I think regular exercise can be a powerful part of anxiety treatment, but that it needs to be part of a more holistic plan with nutrition, rest, spirituality, healthy relationships and some good cognitive behavioral work. I’ve known people who aren’t doing their exposure work and are avoiding anxiety provoking situations while they pray that their morning yoga will cure them that day. I wish it were that easy, but we all have to do the work.

The triathlon was really a fantastic experience – I highly recommend it to those interested. A sprint distance is just long enough to make it an accomplishment, something you have to work toward, but not so long that it takes over your life. The race was hot & hilly, but manageable & so much fun! As this was an all women’s triathlon, the volunteers were all men along the race course wearing t-shirts that said, “Triathlete chics are hot!” (Now, who wouldn’t want to go a little faster when they were cheered on with that kind of enthusiasm?) And, the camaraderie from all of the amazing women in our group was energizing as well.

Am I happy about turning 40? Sometimes it gives me pause (ok, freaks me out), but other times I realize that slow and steady is a good way to move forward through life. It gives you time to appreciate the accomplishment this life is, connect with those traveling alongside and enjoy the view.

Acronym for the day

When you’re dealing with a return of anxiety or depression, or maybe an upswing of stress in your life, here’s a helpful acronym to remember:

NURSE

Nourishment – be mindful of what you’re feeding your body – fresh veggies, fruit, water, whole grains – you know the list.

Understanding – name the beast for what it is & acknowledge that you’re feeling funky for the moment, day, week.

Rest – it’s amazing how good it feels to catch up on your sleep & how sleep deprivation can really mess with our mental states & ability to handle stress.

Spirituality – whatever grounds you, be it religion, mindfulness, being in nature – access that power & calm now.

Exercise – Dr. Oz recommends 30 minutes of walking every day no matter what. Why not experiment & see what happens when you incorporate something like that into your life? How does your perspective shift?

from: Women’s Moods: What Every Woman Must Know about Hormones, the Brain, and Emotional Health: by Deborah Sichel & Jeanne Watson Driscoll

Self Care

It feels like, for years, I’ve been saying, “This is the week I’m going to start going to bed at 10pm – no matter what’s still left on my To Do list. I’m going to exercise every day. And, I’m going to watch my sugar intake.” (Well, truth be told, I usually say, “And, I’m not going to eat sugar this week!” But let’s not get carried away.) I have a strong suspicion that doing these things will make me feel good, increase my energy, & decrease my overall anxiety, but for some reason, I find myself up at all hours trying to fit more hours into the day.

So, will you join me in taking better care of yourself this week? I’m not sure what that looks like for you, but I’m going to stick to my daily walks & weights, go to bed by 10pm & stay away from desserts as much as possible.

Let me know how your week goes & what’s working for you! NEXT week is: do at least one thing everyday that scares you. I invite you to start thinking about what those 7 days might look like!