Author Archives: Carol

About Carol

A provocateur of wellness and seeker of wisdom, I integrate levity and simplicity in an artistic life, frugality but with requisite fun, and the freedom to pursue adventure. Blogging here since 2007.. or so...

10 THINGS THAT HAD TO CHANGE AT MIDLIFE

imagesIt’s not that I didn’t get the memo earlier in life. How can you miss the snarky references to women at all phases of their life right? it’s just that I was busy trying to keep all my plates in the air to really consider what the talk about mid-life was all about before it was staring me in the face. In retrospect, and why I’m writing this blog post BTW, embracing all the changes even earlier would’ve made it so much easier. So with the help of my Ayurvedic doctor Marcia, angel that she is, along with years of trial and error, I’ve eventually settled into a routine that’s made life far more enjoyable. Here’s a recap of my journey:

  1. All my hair, make up, shampoo, even my hair cut were no longer working, dangit!! Of course, you imagine that by your mid-forties or so you’ve figured out the best moisturizer for your face, shampoo for your type of hair, the most flattering make-up based on your skin, a haircut that works with your life and even a shampoo schedule. But I resisted the writing on the wall until I couldn’t and finally began all that experimentation all over again, admitting that what used to work now didn’t.
  2. My daily sleep and wake cycles-once I began having hot flashes at 4AM, I realized that going to bed late at 11pm or midnight put me right in the middle of my sleep cycle making me a crabby witch the next day, cursing my body…. which made the hot flashes worse and me even more frustrated and difficult. When Marcia first suggested a 9:30pm bedtime I laughed, not realizing she knew what she was talking about and that getting up at 6am allowed me to get so much more done before I needed to be out the door in the morning.
  3. My diet – I’ve always had a restricted diet due to one reason or another but the first thing the Acupuncturist (who I consulted with for the hot flashes) told me was the vegetarian diet had to go since my “blood was weak”. Wha??? And why was the pasta I’d eaten all my life sitting like a rock in my stomach? Why were the dairy products I ate so minimally making my scalp itch? Now the carbonation in anything (beer, tonic, mineral water, etc) made the hot flashes so much worse. Time to rethink the diet thing too! Who knew spicy foods made you hotter? I’m paying attention by now! The keto diet is working well!!
  4. My fitness regime had been vigorous in my attempt to stay one step in front of my young dance and yoga students but I was growing weary of flogging myself at the gym and decided instead to give the old ‘honor thy body’ a try with a better-rounded routine that incorporated balance into the mix. It was then I realized what this was all about-I needed a better balance EVERYWHERE in my life.
  5. My circle of friends and relations – I guess in an effort to get along, go with the flow, make life happy and bright for everyone else, I forgot to give much thought to myself which isn’t an uncommon theme for women. We are wired, plumbed, and acculturated to put others first, feed everyone before ourselves, and take the crust of the bread loaf. Most of us are pleasers. I realized I was the only one NOT pleased with this approach and now I’m ruthlessly reassessing.
  6. My spiritual practice-no longer could I just go through the motions. This stuff was hard and I finally admitted I couldn’t do it without help. But the help wasn’t where I wanted it to be – on the list of in-network practitioners. I’d tried all of them over the years and exhausted not only myself, but my bank account and my patience. I had no choice but to look inward for answers and stop fighting the obvious. I start to relax a bit more.
  7. My tolerance level for people, places, and other things-I just let go of the family members that taunted and bullied, the obligations that filled no purpose, the routines that were empty, and the acquaintances that had insinuated themselves into my life. By now I was appreciating all the changes and the power of this sacred transition.
  8. My leisure activities-in the past they were generally dictated by my children, their school, my husband, etc that left little time for the things I loved and did so little for the person I by now was trying to honor.
  9. My volunteer activities – with so many meaningless behaviors now gone, I chose two efforts I wanted to support and practice using my new-found boundaries with. Coincidentally, it’s when I realized the politics in this country needed everyone’s attention and I was ready to do my part.
  10. My boundaries-I finally have some and that really helps. My gratitude practice is working!!

For all the difficulty I’ve had on this path, I can’t regret any of it because of what I’ve learned about me. I’m not as pretty as I once was and my body doesn’t look the same as when I was younger. My hair isn’t as vibrant and men don’t look at me either. I can’t indulge in the food I used to and I sure can’t drink like the old days. I fall into that category of ‘invisible’ in our society even though I’m smarter, kinder, and wiser. But my energy is better than ever, I’m emotionally better balanced, and I like myself more than ever which isn’t what I thought I’d be saying many years into this journey. I’ve embraced who I am. Finally!

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RESILIENCY: WHAT IT IS AND HOW TO CULTIVATE MORE OF IT

What you should know about resiliency

  • Helps with overcoming adversity and adapting to change
  • Allows us to go with the flow
  • Mitigates stress, fear and self-doubt
  • Becoming resilient takes time and requires practice
  • Seek help if you aren’t making progress or don’t know where to start

UnknownWhat we know about the brain and how it works

  • Empathy for others is experienced as pain – the same neurons fire and cause suffering whether by direct or indirect experience
  • Imaginary is real-same nerve bundles fire whether imaginary or not
  • Brain can’t discern between broken heart and broken leg-it’s all pain

Why we need resiliency

  • Helps rebound after loss
  • Develops healthy coping mechanisms to handle setbacks and stress
  • Helps offset factors that increase your risk of mental health conditions
  • Improves your ability to cope
  • Improves inner strength and develops a stronger constitution

How to cultivate greater resiliency

  • History supports modern findings that inner contentment is found by a gratitude practice
  • Compassion for others also benefits the self by defeating fear and self-doubt
  • Meaningful and altruistic activities help you feel safe and worthy
  • Cultivating gratitude and compassion will serve you better than the pursuit of happiness

Additional helpful practices to cultivate resiliency

  1. Get connected-develop strong positive relationships, networks, and communities
  2. Set meaningful goals
  3. Recognize and learn successful skills and strategies from your experiences
  4. Understand that all things change
  5. Reach out for help when in crisis
  6. Develop supportive networks
  7. Take care of yourself
  8. Eat well
  9. Get healthy amounts of sleep
  10. Practice relaxation, yoga, meditation, breathing practices, etc.
  11. Be proactive

Resources: Dr Amit Sood-Mayo Clinic

Classic Cranberry Relish-Sugar Free

I adore this dish with Thanksgiving and Christmas meals and once I realized how easy it was to avoid the sugar, I was hooked!!  None of my dinner guests have ever noticed it isn’t the classic!

12 oz (1.5 cups) Fresh Cranberries (washed)
1 Orange (washed)
Stevia to taste

  1. Grate 2 teaspoons of zest from orange; discard remaining peel and pith from 1 orange. Divide orange into sections.
  2. Place orange sections, orange zest, 1.5 cups (12 oz) cranberries, *2 packages Stevia (or approx 25 drops) in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped. I’ve chopped by hand as well..even nicer consistency!
  3. Transfer relish to a bowl and cover; refrigerate to allow flavors to blend, at least 2 hours.
  4. Taste to adjust stevia/sweetness level.

*Stevia is a plant sold in many different ‘strengths’ so sweetness levels depend on your brand and desired sweetness. Err on the side of caution and add stevia slowly to desired taste.

Four Concrete Steps for Working with Trauma

with Bessel van der Kolk, MD and Ruth Buczynski, PhD

Editor’s note: These people are top of their field and always worth the time!

Step 1: Start with Self-Regulation

Dr. van der Kolk: I would say the foundation of all effective treatments involves some way for people to learn that they can change their arousal system.

Before any talking, it’s important to notice that if you get upset, taking 60 breaths, focusing on the out breaths, can calm your brain right down. Attempting some acupressure points or going for a walk can be very calming.

Dr. Buczynski: So this is learning to modulate arousal?

Dr. van der Kolk: Yes, and there’s alarmingly little in our mainstream culture to teach that. For example, this was something that kindergarten teachers used to teach, but once you enter the first grade, this whole notion that you can actually make yourself feel calm seems to disappear.

Now, there’s this kind of post-alcoholic culture where if you feel bad, you pop something into your mouth to make the feeling go away.

“The issue of self-regulation needs to become front and center in the treatment of trauma.”

It’s interesting that right now there are about six to ten million people in America who practice yoga, which is sort of a bizarre thing to do – to stand on one foot and bend yourself up into a pretzel. Why do people do that? They’ve discovered that there’s something they can do to regulate their internal systems.

So the issue of self-regulation needs to become front and center in the treatment of traumatized people. That’s step number one.

Step 2: Help Your Patients Take Steps Toward Self-Empowerment

The core idea here is that I am not a victim of what happens. I can do things to change my own thoughts, which is very contrary to the medical system where, if you can’t stand something, you can take a pill and make it go away.

The core of trauma treatment is something is happening to you that you interpret as being frightening, and you can change the sensation by moving, breathing, tapping, and touching (or not touching). You can use any of these processes.

It’s more than tolerating feelings and sensations. Actually, it is more about knowing that you, to some degree, are in charge of your own physiological system.

There needs to be a considerable emphasis on “cultivating in myself,” not only as a therapist, but also as a patient – this knowing that you can actually calm yourself down by talking or through one of these other processes.

So, step number two is the cultivation of being able to take effective action. Many traumatized people have been very helpless; they’ve been unable to move. They feel paralyzed, sit in front of the television, and they don’t do anything.

“Programs with physical impact would be very, very effective treatments.”

Programs with physical impact, like model mugging (a form of self-defense training), martial arts or kickboxing, or an activity that requires a range of physical effort where you actually learn to defend yourself, stand up for yourself, and feel power in your body, would be very, very effective treatments. Basically, they reinstate a sense that your organism is not a helpless (tool) of fate.

Step 3: Help Your Patients Learn to Express Their Inner Experience

The third thing I would talk about is learning to know what you know and feel what you feel. And that’s where psychotherapy comes in: finding the language for internal experience.

The function of language is to tie us together; the function of language is communication. Without being able to communicate, you’re locked up inside of yourself.

“Without being able to communicate, you’re locked up inside of yourself.”

So, learning to communicate and finding words for your internal states would be very helpful in terms of normalizing ourselves – accepting and making (the communication of internal states) a part of ourselves and part of the community. That’s the third part.

Step 4: Integrate the Senses Through Rhythm

We’re physical animals, and to some level, we’re always dancing with each other. Our communication is as much through head nodding and smiles and frowns and moving as anything else. Kids, in particular, and adults, who as kids were victims of physical abuse and neglect, lose those interpersonal rhythms.

“Rhythmical interaction to establish internal sensory integration is an important piece.”

So, some sort of rhythmical interaction to establish internal sensory integration is an important piece that we are working on. With kids, we work with sensory integration techniques like having them jump on trampolines and covering them with heavy blankets to have them feel how their bodies relate to the environment because that’s an area that gets very disturbed by trauma, neglect, and abuse, especially in kids.

For adults, I think we’ve resolved rhythmical issues with experiences like tango dancing, Qi Gong, drumming – any of these put one organism in rhythm with other organisms and is a way of overcoming this frozen sense of separation that traumatized people have with others.

Dr. Buczynski: These are four keystones that can make healing from trauma faster and more effective. In order to give patients the best chance for recovery, consider these steps as you plan your interventions and treatments.