We all have those moments.....and often they turn into days.....and weeks.....months......perhaps even years.......
We are facing a deadline.... or perhaps we are facing an illness. We are facing ourselves in the mirror and realizing that time is passing.... And suddenly we are gripped with fear. We can feel it begin to squeeze our muscles together.....our breath becomes short and perhaps our heart races.
Or it can be subtle.....We wake up in the morning with our jaw aching, and while brushing our teeth we become aware of the fact that we were clenching our jaw during our sleep. Or suddenly... while doing nothing more than walking down the street, we realize we have our hands clenched in a fist.... or we're wearing our shoulders like earmuffs.
We can toss it off as "just stress"..... or we can realize that stress can literally kill us - and then do something about it.
What to do? Here are 2 quick tips for you, which you can do anywhere without looking like a crazy person:
Bringing awareness to your breath is a great way to settle your mind - plus, since you're already an expert on how to breathe (you've been at it your whole life!), you feel comfortable doing this wherever and whenever you please.
Take a deep breath through your nose into your belly. You should feel your belly expand, like a balloon. (Don't worry - no one is looking!) From there, let the air fill your entire chest. Then let the air out through your mouth with an "Ahhhh" sound - like you're sighing. Do this 3-4 times. Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This one can be done anywhere as well, but is probably more effective if you're at least sitting down, rather than standing.
Starting with your hands, take a deep breath in and clench the muscles of your hands. Then suddenly and quickly release them as you breathe out quickly, through your mouth.
Proceed to do this same clenching and releasing of your muscles as you work your way up your arms - forearms, biceps, shoulders, neck, face...... then down to your abdomen, buttocks, thighs, calves and finally to your feet - each time inhaling as you clench the muscle groups, and exhaling suddenly, completely and quickly as you release the muscles and allow them to relax.
Depending upon your situation, you might not be able to do all of the muscle groups. Do what you can. Notice how you feel at the end of this exercise.
I've been thinking a lot recently about the obstacles we face on a day to day basis - and how we overcome them. Check out my latest video on youtube. And I want to know what it is that you struggle with - what is it that holds you back? And what do you do to overcome it? I share mine here - what's yours?
Can I hear a "Hallelujah!"?
I'm talking about the latest news out of the American College of Physicians. They've just updated their guidelines for treatment of back pain, and for the first time, they have stated that the first line of treatment should be non-drug therapy, and drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) and muscle relaxants should only be considered if first line treatments fail. Here's what they said:
The ACP made the following strong recommendations:
We've all been told to exercise....that exercise is good for us. And it's true - with more muscle mass, we don't tend to gain much weight, we seem to have more energy, and we generally feel better. But what about people who are going through chemotherapy? Should they be on an exercise program, especially when they feel wiped out from chemo?
Well, if you or someone you know is undergoing chemo, then you need to watch this video. It's an eye-opener, and it will give you hope:
I just got done reading a fantastic article in the New Yorker on incremental vs. heroic medicine. The man who wrote it is a surgeon - someone whose life's path has been that of the hero - there to save lives through the miracle of modern medicine. For years he looked at what he did as far superior than, say, an Internal Medicine doc - or any primary care physician, for that matter. After all, he was the creator of miracles, and what did they do? Give shots and prescribe medicines and take blood pressure. No drama there.
But then a friend of his - an Internal Medicine doc - sent him some eye-opening statistics. Seems that the evidence is clear. Those who take care of themselves by regularly solving seemingly small problems have much better outcomes than those who rely on the heroic measures.
Well, for those of us who use so-called "alternative medicine", it's the same thing. What we do is what I'd describe as baby steps.....small adjustments to our eating habits, our exercise routines, and - though it might seem unimportant when you don't have any symptoms - regular adjustments to our energy.
For those of us who practice these routines, we find ourselves more resilient when others are breaking down with colds and the flu. We sleep better. We gain less weight. We feel more energetic. And what does all of that add up to? A much happier life!
What baby steps do you take towards your own self-care? Those seemingly, small things that you've poo-poohed as unimportant? I'd love to hear from you. Scroll down and leave a comment - share your thoughts.
There are times when everything seems so unsettled. We find ourselves anxious and can't point to the source of it......we just know that things ain't right. These days, it seems that things ain't right. People are angry or confused or fearful.....or feeling justified in their beliefs but completely dismissed by those who don't share those beliefs. The word "fragmented" comes to mind when I look around. In a sense, it feels like we are all refugees these days.
One of my favorite sources of hope - my anchor to the center - comes from Krista Tippett's website On Being. One of her regular columnists is a man named Parker Palmer, who recently asked the question "What does it mean to live the good life?" In his response to this question, he quoted a beautiful poem by Jane Kenyon, called "Otherwise". I wanted to pass this on to you as a reminder that each moment that goes by is a gift. It can be hard to remember that, but it's worth the effort. I hope you enjoy this poem. If you do, I'd love it if you'd leave a comment below and let me know!
by Jane Kenyon
I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.
At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.
I've been thinking a lot about authenticity. You know how it is when you meet someone who really "shows up"? You can tell right away if you like their energy or not. Something will draw you in, or you'll find yourself drifting away. It's usually pretty clear from the outset.
There's a saying in Chinese medicine that the shen (or spirit) shines in the eyes. You look in someone's eyes and you can see that spark, that clarity.........or you'll see the "veil" that hangs over that spirit. I think it's one way we pick the people we allow in to our lives. They're our kind of people. They're one of "us".
We're wired for community - for "tribe", even though we've been taught that the word "tribe" gives the sense of something primitive. But it's hard wired into our DNA that we want to belong. In fact, the sense of not belonging is often at the root of depression and anxiety. When we're shunned, bullied or abused, we can spiral down to a dark place. But what happens when we don't truly "show up" as our authentic self? What's the ripple effect of hiding behind our "acceptable" mask? Can we ever truly feel like we belong when we're hiding our true nature, or not speaking our truth? Is telling a half-truth, or withholding half the story the best way to create solid relationships?
I love the saying "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken." What a relief it would be to drop the burden of pretense and just show up! "Here I am, like it or not, this is what you get." Yeah, you might lose a few people, but you know what? You were going to lose them anyway. If they don't like the real you, then they're actually dead weight. I know that's hard to take in when that person happens to be your spouse or your boss or your "best" friend. If you're in that position, you should consider finding a qualified therapist - someone who can listen with compassion, ask some good questions, and help guide you to making the decision that's best for you.
If you don't know a good therapist and you live here in San Diego, give us a call. I can refer you to several different ones. In the long run, you'll find yourself feeling lighter and happier. You might wind up keeping some of those relationships - but it will be based on the truth, and that always feels better - for both of you.
A beautiful talk about a crisis in medicine.....the fact that there's little time or training of doctors to listen and engage with patients. There's a tremendous price to pay for this....I hope you find this as interesting and inspiring as I did. Please scroll down and let me know what you think of this talk, and whether or not you've had any experiences with doctors which were healing because they engaged with you. Or the opposite!
I'm not committed to resolutions for the new year - I'm committed to a vision for my future, and I'm committed to creating the habits that will pull me towards that vision.
Had to share this. I don't know why I was born with this ability, but this woman expresses it in a way I wouldn't have thought of. Enjoy!
I've been practicing acupuncture and Chinese medicine for over 25 years, and this ancient wisdom never gets old. I love helping people feel better without the need for drugs or surgery.