Join the Resistance

Photo: quotlr.com

So, how have you been doing since the US Presidential Inauguration on the 20th? Like many of us, I’ve been in a whirlwind of stress as each new day we’re surprised by a new atrocity. Most of the time, our anxiety is based on something irrational and despite our worst fears and imaginings, things turn out all right.  But this political climate is different. Our country needs us to stand up for all human rights, acceptance, inclusivity and love. And, action always feels better than being frozen in fear.

Let’s look at some ways to get involved!

Donate to your charity of choice.  Some of my favorites are Doctors without Borders, Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU. Be a micro-philanthropist – even $10 makes a difference. And you can be creative – maybe you can’t drop $120, but you could consider a scheduled donation of $10 a month.

Join the Women’s Movement and commit to 10 actions for the first 100 days. The first action is simple – write down your thoughts and ideas on postcards about what’s important to you and how’ll you stand up and fight. Then send them to your Senators – easy peasy! Want to take it a step further? Host a postcard writing party or potluck!

Keep up the Momentum:

Here are two great sites for daily and weekly calls to action:

*Subscribe to Project 1461 for their Daily Call to Action.

*Sign up for Jen Hofmann’s Weekly Action Checklist for Democrats, Independents, and Republicans of Conscience.

Stay Inspired – check out  Vox as they interview young people during the Women’s March.

Maintain Balance – don’t forget to take good care of yourself. It’s going to be a long haul.

 

 

 

 

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?

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?

Coping with matters out of our control

Here’s a comment I received a few days ago & the impetus for this current post:

“I would love for you to do a post on the swine flu and how to handle anxiety symptoms related to something that’s so out of a person’s control. I’m having difficulty with it, with the situation in and of itself, but it also brings up symptoms related to the general fear that I’ve got no control over the future.”

What’s an anxiety super hero to do when the world feels out of control and scary and it seems like there’s nothing you can do to protect yourself? And, I don’t mean all the scary scenario’s we regularly create in our brains – rather, things like terrorism, global warming and the swine flu.

I remember hearing about the avian flu a few years back and feeling terrified. Every time I turned on the news, there was another frightening report of how it would spread to a pandemic level. Newspapers printed full page stories about supplies you should have at home in case we all had to be quarantined. Picking up my children from pre-school, the avian flu was a hot topic among parents & many of us felt afraid. My husband & I talked about what we would do if a pandemic were to occur, thinking through how we could keep our family safe. (There’s still a box of unwrapped, protective masks in our basement.)

So what can we do when life feels out of our control? How can we take smart precautions without going off the deep end and building a bomb shelter in the backyard – just in case? How do we sort out the necessary information from the fear messaging so prevalent in our world, threatening to limit and suck the joy out of our lives?

Here’s what I do & some links that I find helpful:

*I greatly limit the amount & type of news I take in. Dr. Andrew Weil writes about going on a news diet in his book 8 Weeks to Optimum Health & I take it to heart!

*When something comes up that’s bothering me, I might freak out a little bit first, to be honest. After I’m done with that, I find a trusted source or two & go to it for information. If I find myself anxiously surfing the web for every little article – any piece of information that might help me protect myself & my family – I recognize that for what it is – a symptom of anxiety. When anxiety arises, you know what to do – check out this & this. Scheduling a worry time each day also helps to decrease that feeling of constant worry weaving through your thoughts day & night.

*I try to plan and take control of what I can. With the swine flu, I talked to my kids last night at the dinner table (in age appropriate terms) and reminded them how important it is to wash their hands before eating, after going to the bathroom, when the come home from school, etc. It’s such an easy, but extremely effective tool for keeping healthy. My husband & I have gone through what steps we could take if this flu became pandemic. Looking fears in the face & finding potential solutions can feel very liberating.

*I try to keep up with the basics — exercise, a good night’s sleep (I’m not so good there), & a healthy diet.

*Meditation, prayer/spirituality, progressive muscle relaxation, & yoga are all essential tools.

*And, finally, it’s easy to take a healthy dose of humor each day when you live with a toddler. I try to laugh with my family, cuddle them up & be as present as I can when I’m with them. Life feels like it’s going so quickly & I don’t want to waste their growing up time preparing anxiouly for the “what if’s”.

I hope that helped as you strive for a balanced response to the craziness in the world. I’d love to hear from readers what works for you, too!

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

I don’t want to

Sometimes anxiety means “I don’t want to”. I’ve read about anxiety sometimes being related to hidden emotions and had an interesting experience with it just last month. First of all, I’m one of those women who hates shopping for clothes. I have a hard time finding clothes that I like in my price range and often feel like I’ve wasted my time, coming home empty handed. (If only I was a trust fund kid) But recently two things happened – my Mom & I were looking through old photos and there I am wearing the same cranberry turtleneck and black skirt in a decades worth of holiday photos. Then, we were having dinner with friends and my girlfriend commented on liking the color green in my shirt. “Oh, I’ve had this shirt since we were in grad school together”, I told her. Smiling, she said, “Oh, I know.”

It was time to venture out.

I pulled together a short list of what I was looking for and drove toward the mall. I dropped into a few stores, not seeing anything I wanted. A few more and now I’m checking my watch. Shoot, I only have an hour before I need to be back to nurse the baby. What am I doing here on this beautiful day?

The phone rang and it was my husband checking in – “How’s it going? Have you found anything yet? We’re fine, don’t worry.” I heard the joyful chortles of my kids in the background. As I walked toward the dressing room, armed with about 20 items, I felt a sudden surge of adrenaline and began feeling panicky. My first response was – “What’s this?” I questioned why I would feel panicky while I was out shopping – that’s not a trigger for me.

In the dressing room, I looked at myself in the mirror and utilized the paradox technique thinking, “Do you wanna freak out here? Bring it on.” It took a little while, but I realized that sometimes anxiety means I don’t want to; or I feel guilty. I felt guilty that I was away from my family; I felt silly for spending so much time with nothing to show for it and I wasn’t having much fun. Bingo – my anxiety was telling me to either change my attitude or just go home.

Looking back, I can think of other times I’ve had similar experiences. Maybe not panic, but that cocktail of “I don’t want to” mixed with adrenaline – for example: dragging 3 tired & strung out kids through the grocery store while they all beg for something – Can we get a cookie? Why can’t we get a cookie now? Is it time yet? Or, times when I agreed to volunteer for something just because I couldn’t find a good reason not to or a way to nicely say no.

I did end up finding a few cute things. I stopped to grab a cup of coffee and kicked up my feet to really feel like I got a break from parenting. And, when I got home, my family was excited to see the goods and welcome me back like I’d never been gone.