Category Archives: Health and Wellness

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!

FINDING YOUR LIFE’S WORK EVERY DAY

Ruminating on how many times I see an article promising the reader relief from their boredom (as in ‘find your life’s work’), I realize there was a time that I too seemed dumbstruck with the overwhelming needs in the world. But then I reflected on the previous few decades and decided I was already ‘living my destiny’ and I became empowered then to simply stay the course. Understandably, not everyone is as old as me, but my point here is that you may already be fulfilling your destiny whether or not you’ve figured out how to make a living at it.

We seem to have raised our kids to expect fame and fortune when one finds that magic destiny although those of us who’ve been down the entrepreneurial path know it takes a large fortune to make a small one – riches usually aren’t at the end of that rainbow. So what’s up with all of this? Did my parents spend so much time thinking they were missing something? I wonder if this is another one of those 1st world problems…. we certainly have the luxury to do a bit more than scrape together enough food to eat for the day and find a dry safe place to sleep at night, unlike many in this world.

Another misconception is that anything worth doing requires a GREAT idea. But most successful people, no matter how you define success, have had many small ideas, most of which didn’t pan out or were downright failures. So isn’t it more important to keep supporting your causes until you’re to the point you can reinforce them a bit more? Do we really think, like in some movie, some super idea will come to us in a dream? Then we’ll wake up, act as we never have before and take the world by storm?

The secret may be you are already doing your life’s work. You just haven’t found freedom there.  And that may be because freedom still involves sadness and loneliness. Is it how we’re defining freedom that has us stumbling? There will still be good days and bad days. You will still complain about the love of your life. The children you adore will be annoying and you’ll forget to take the garbage to the curb. Without the mundane, we can never appreciate the exciting and without suffering, we can never appreciate ecstasy. If your life feels meaningless, go out there and work towards solutions. Feed the hungry and clothe the poor. I know from experience that it helps put things in perspective. Otherwise my friends, you will reflect on a life a inaction when you are my age and realize you already had the answers but didn’t realize it at the time.

Designing Therapy Spaces: Part Two

We’re continuing our series on designing office spaces for health and wellness practitioners. If you missed part one – https://healingconsortium.com/2014/12/01/designing-therapy-spaces-a-series-to-enlighten-and-delight/ – we discussed the broad strokes that shouldn’t be overlooked. Moving on to specifics of decor, the important element is to not only empower you, the practitioner, but to also demonstrate empathy for your clients – their comfort and progress. So while no two spaces will look alike, keep the stimulation level at a minimum with muted neutral colors that allow you to add pops of color based on the season so that you yourself don’t become tired of the space you inhabit on a regular basis.

Charley's Staging- Spring 2008 026Warm, almost masculine color schemes that are organized and tidy are in order here. Start with what you have and pull out a color wheel. Try to keep to no more than 3 dominant colors, otherwise it begins to look chaotic. Let’s look at the office in the photo- the walls are a green and the furniture and window reddish-brown. Red and green are opposite each other on the color wheel. Be sure the colors have similar values/saturation levels – generally furniture, other than white, has deep saturation levels so mixing pastels with them can be tricky. Another approach is to go to the paint store and find the color combinations they provide on the sample cards, choosing what you already own and complementing from there. Then you have license to play with accessories you enjoy! Remember, don’t include anything you don’t absolutely love. Next time – lighting.

 

Depression in the Workplace

UnknownAlthough we’ve come a long way with brain science and we can now see the difference in a brain scan between a depressed person and a not depressed person, we have a long way to go. How does depression really manifest in different people? What does the depressed person act like? Why do we so often miss the signs in others and lose so many to suicide? I ponder these questions each time I realize that although I know myself, I know I suffer from seasonal depression, I know it’s winter and the light is low in my part of the world, I miss the fact that I’m depressed. If I miss it in myself, how likely is it that you’ll be looking for it in others? Until I find myself repeating the phrase “I hate my life” with my head in my hands, I often am clueless.  Why doesn’t it occur to me sooner? Why am I so surprised? But this is classic depression. The brain is still functioning but my heart has sunk a little deeper into my chest and the shades are drawn. It’s little wonder that the image above shows so much darkness in the depressed brain.

Apparently, emotions and logic are located on opposite sides of the brain which explains irrational behavior – emotions have taken over. As the human brain developed, survival depended on switching off one side of the brain (think emergency) in order for the other half of the brain to lead.

“So when we become caught up in our emotions, we actually become very stupid. We have lost the ability to step back and look at all the options and every thing is seen in black or white terms. Either everything is alright or everything is all wrong! This is a clear explanation for depression, which is a huge emotion. It also explains anxiety and panic attacks where the fight or flight system becomes permanently switched on. It also explains obsessions and compulsions like self harm, where the arousal and expectation produce adrenaline and other emotion-related hormones and chemicals, which feel as though they can only be dissipated by performing the ritual.” Frances Masters, BACP accredited psychotherapist 

So often, we humans have 20/20 vision when it comes to those around us yet we can’t ‘see the forest for the trees’ in our own life. You probably recognize when those around you are out of sorts, difficult to be around, but does it occur to you that they may be generally depressed? Instead of writing this off as a difficult co-worker, an over-stressed parent, or an impossible boss, a quiet lunch where compassionate concern is expressed may be all that’s needed to help them recognize that they need help.

So what are symptoms of depression?

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. …
  • Loss of interest in daily activities. …
  • Appetite or weight changes. …
  • Sleep changes. …
  • Anger or irritability. …
  • Loss of energy. …
  • Self-loathing. …
  • Reckless behavior

More importantly, for the purpose of this article, what does depression look like at work?

  • Uncooperative…
  • Unmotivated…
  • Bad attitude…
  • Low productivity..

…just to name a few. I want to suggest that everything you read about toxic co-workers is probably also what depression looks like at work. Untreated depression in an empowered person is hell – many of us know that scenario SOO well! But I want to suggest here that you can be some help. Just a concerned acknowledgement may be all that’s necessary to help an adult recognize the demon and take steps to get back to a better place. And since I am not an advocate of pharmaceuticals myself and have relied for years on safer alternatives, there are tools for everyone in this scenario. But recognition is the first step and all of us can be active participants!

Designing Therapy Spaces: A Series to Enlighten and Delight

Saul Robbins Photography

Saul Robbins Photography

You’ve finally snagged a great new office space and you’re ready to move in but your momentum hits a roadblock. There isn’t much research on what constitutes healing spaces and there is little training in the halls of higher education for aspiring therapists and healers entering the field of healthcare. So it should come as no surprise that designing physical environments where therapy is conducted is often left to chance. The frightening news is that the few studies that have been done find that the competence and character of a practitioner are often judged based on the physical office spaces they occupy! People actually had opinions about qualifications based on pictures of offices!!! So it appears important for those in the health care profession to take heed – your income and the success of your business seem to depend on how well you appoint your office space.

Apparently your clientele is basing their initial perception of your work on the formality of your space and diplomas posted on your walls – this is extremely important. Your professional space should also support and empower the service provider.

You would think that clutter needn’t be mentioned when discussing a work space that invites clients inside but apparently that isn’t the case. If you are one that has less than tidy paperwork habits, I suggest another space to spread out or a desk that can be closed off behind doors. This rates a giant ‘no confidence’ for clients and will likely lose you business. So comfort is defined as orderly, warm, nurturing yet formal.

This being the first installment of the series, we’re looking at the larger picture. On the macro level, the space should be a reflection of your values and your philosophy of caring for your clients. The space – the room itself, the building, and even the approach to the building should allow for client privacy.

The Feng Shui of the seating is an interesting dilemma – the power position faces the exit however that is also a safety concern for many so ideally both patient and therapist have the door in their sight line whenever possible. Being able to move the seating (non-fixed) is also a great advantage and every piece of seating needs to be supportive and comfortable.

Next time, we’ll discuss decor and by the end of the series,  we’ll also have looked at color theory, lighting, stimulation levels, and seasonal flair. Part 2 is here: https://healingconsortium.com/2015/01/19/designing-therapy-spaces-part-two/

Chipotle Inspiration

There it was- on the bag in front or me. And I wasn’t prepared for it to actually make me feel good but it did 🙂 Here it is for others to enjoy:

It’s easy to get discouraged by the ceaseless news of violence, poverty, and disease. But the news presents a distorted view of the world. News is about things that happen, not things that don’t happen. You never see a TV crew reporting that a country isn’t at war; or that a city hasn’t had a mass shooting that day, or that millions of 80 year-olds are alive and well. The only way to appreciate the state of the world is to count. How many incidents of violence, or starvation, or disease are there as a proportion of the number of people in the world? And the only way to know whether things are getting better or worse is to compare those numbers at different times: over the centuries and decades, do the trend lines go up or down? As it happens, the numbers tell a surprisingly happy story. Violent crime has fallen by half since 1992, and fiftyfold since the Middle Ages. Over the past 60 years the number of wars and number of people killed in wars have plummeted. Worldwide, fewer babies die, more children go to school, more people live in democracies, more can afford simple luxuries, fewer get sick, and more live to old age. “Better” does not mean “perfect.” Too many people still live in misery and die prematurely, and new challenges, such as climate change, confront us. But measuring the progress we’ve made in the past emboldens us to strive for more in the future. Problems that look hopeless may not be; human ingenuity can chip away at them. We will never have a perfect world, but it’s not romantic or naive to work towards a better one.

Intentional Spaces-Inviting Chi Into Your Life

For 2 decades, I’ve been helping people with the art of placement. And I have heard the most cropped-images4.jpegamazing feedback from them, all of which has encouraged me to delve deeper into the importance of the spaces in our lives. There’s an enormous amount of material covering the healing properties of our physical spaces, the spiritual potential of them, as well as the quality of life issues many of us long to understand. A fascinating read:

In 1984, medical researcher Roger Ulrich examined the hospital records of 46 patients who had undergone gallbladder surgery in a suburban Pennsylvania hospital. During recovery, half of their beds faced windows that overlooked a grove of trees. The other half had a view of a brick wall. It seems like the difference should hardly matter, but Ulrich found that patients who could see the trees left the hospital almost a full day sooner than those with a view of a wall.

Not only that, but those with views of nature required fewer doses of pain medication and had fewer negative nurse reports. Ulrich controlled for other variables that could affect recovery time, like age and sex, and each pair of patients — one with a view of trees, one a view of the brick wall — had been cared for by the same nurses, so differences in nursing could not account for the speed of their recovery. The difference lay entirely in what they were looking at. (http://experiencelife.com/author/esternberg/)

We think of our homes, offices, and other dwellings as simply containers for all of our material possessions however the spaces we inhabit influence our attitudes, our peace of mind, the quality of our thinking, and our ability to perform. They seem to impact our spirit and our ability or inability to think clearly. The energy we emit and the energy around us both are directly impacted by our physical environment. This perpetual dance, always in motion, dynamically impacting us, may be far more important than we’ve realized. Unfortunately, we’ve become accustomed to relegating this to the outer reaches our minds, either because we’re unaware of the significance or because we have yet to be enlightened and delighted by how change and enhancement will be a catalyst for better vitality for our bodies, minds, and spirits.

As with Feng Shui, the art of attracting chi into specific areas of our physical space and intensifying the energy can be learned. First comes the awareness, then the research and cognition, and then the creative manipulation for specific purposes. And with everything of this sort, there’s both the art and the science of noticing blockages in your life and then intentionally realigning the flow to alter current energy patterns.

My journey into this work began with chaos – the chaos in my own emotional and physical life. The artist in me refused to believe this was a problem to be solved with $$$$ but rather one to be solved with creativity. This offered me a chance to seek out information about color theory, materials that offered ‘grounding’ effects, feng shui placement, textural analysis, and spatial manipulation. Articles and opportunities seem to come my way again and again helping me to learn that I could not only ‘stage’ someones house and have it sell the first week on the market, but I could also manipulate their physical things and change the chi that flowed into their lives.

Often this work is a catalyst for larger changes in people’s lives as they realize what enormous power they have and enormous possibilities there are to shift. My work not only catches their attention but enables them to realize they can continue to bring light and energy into their spaces themselves using these simple principles and the intention to improve their physical surroundings.

Not Fitting In

imagesSome of my earliest memories include wanting to ‘be like everyone else’. Like all children, I wanted to belong. Short of that, I simply wanted to be – be comfortable with who I was, be like the popular kids, and feel good about the way I looked. Even then, I wanted to be at peace. It seemed I was desperate to fit in. If only my clothes were cool, my parents were hip, my brothers were handsome, and our car wasn’t a station wagon. As I grew older, conforming to society’s standards just didn’t seem to be in the cards for me even though I continued to try.  Try as I might, I couldn’t believe everything I heard or keep up with the current fads. I couldn’t sit through hours of mass on Sunday when all they talked about was ‘him’. It wasn’t happening. I was the square peg and I wasn’t fitting into any round holes.

Ironically, our society pays lip service to being unique. Industry urges creative problem solvers to apply immediately.  Institutions of higher learning agree that they’re looking for ‘tomorrow’s leaders’. Fashionistas maintain they want to look original. Every focus group I’ve ever participated in encouraged fresh ideas. But where is all this outside the box thinking?  We say we want creative ideas but do we? Education simply recycles the same model used for years. Politicians are ousted and ridiculed for suggesting new approaches. In so many ways, we all want to hide behind ‘normal’ in order to not stick out and not draw attention to ourselves. It can be heart-breaking to feel alone. After all, it’s no guarantee that we’ll be a beautiful swan someday.

For many with social anxiety, I realize this is a painful and not just uncomfortable issue. We tend to over exaggerate how comfortable anyone is in social situations, especially amongst strangers. And we over analyze why we don’t fit in and how much others notice our discomfort. But I finally came to the conclusion, for myself anyway, that I was overthinking ‘what others thought’. images-1I’ve seen a few cartoons that remind me that most of the time, what I think is going on isn’t. Don’t believe everything your mind thinks is one of my favorite bumper stickers. Cliques and social groups will be everywhere, all your life. That high-school mentality is not one you want to allow yourself to get sucked into and whether you share the same interests or not, it’s OK to be unique. But if practice is something you think would improve your social skills, there are plenty of lonely people in the world – the sick, the disenfranchised, the homeless. I know every one of them would hang on your every word! So getting outside yourself might be a good start. In spite of the heartache this has undoubtably caused you, reaching out to others is never a bad idea!

For me, once I had children and had others to think of more than myself, I didn’t have time to dissect social situations or care too much about those that seemed to have everything. I can’t speak for those that do fit in. I know so few of them although my health club seems filled with them and my neighborhood suggests that their lives are a lot more beautiful than mine. I can only surmise however that their lives aren’t as simple as it sounds on paper. I worked for a woman who was perfect in all those ways – beautiful, wealthy, well-connected, smart, and popular in all social situations. She was also a neurotic, obsessive compulsive with passive aggressive tendencies who thought everyone was after her money. Those years taught me that we all create our own beautiful lives – or not. The grass only appears greener from the other side.

Now I am finally learning to embrace my distinctive qualities and hopefully have the courage to not only think outside the box but feel good about it as well. Now, as an older person, I realize I am hardly alone  AND that I don’t want to follow what society dictates as ‘normal’, hip, cool, and trend making. I know now that I never really wanted that anyway. I worried needlessly and pitied myself because what I thought I wanted. It was a waste of time, really.

 

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Losing Weight: The How and Why of It

By far, the singular question everyone asks the dancer is “How can I lose some weight?” I first wrote this article more than 3 years ago and with a bit of acquired wisdom, mainly realizing that I need more information than the question alone supplies, I’m glad to say there’s even more dimension to my initial reply. “Why do you want to lose some weight” is now my standard reply because that really makes all the difference in the world.

The human body is an amazing machine and you can’t possibly not believe in a Divine force if you understand the mechanics even a little bit. And scrambled into the human condition of body, mind, spirit marches the ego (personality) and its all-powerful wants and needs. Left un-checked or shall we say, living in less than mindful ways creates habits that have some consequences on both how we feel and how we look. Hmmmm – right back around to mindfulness, as usual.

All of us know that weight is simply calories in and calories out and that no weight loss occurs unless we expend more energy than we consume. It’s more complicated than that in reality but that’s where it all begins. So we are left with the simple challenge of changing our habits since, obviously, if you’re asking the question, your equation isn’t working for you.

I’m unable to tell you what you are willing to change. Only you can do that. But any one of the following will work. In other words, do one of these consistently, or better, a combination of them, and you will lose weight!

  • Will it be different eating habits?
  • Will it be a different fitness routine?
  • Will you give up driving and walk, bike, or run everywhere?
  • Will you stop eating dairy products?
  • Will you stop eating meat?
  • Will you stop eating processed foods?
  • Will you vow to not eat after 7:30pm every night?
  • Will you give up alcohol?

Professional dancers are considered some of the world’s finest athletes. Physical endurance and strength training six days a week all day year-round necessitates learning about the body, specifically your body. Everyone is wired differently but we know what we want and what we don’t want. Or do we? The discipline required to study an art form is unique in this culture but anyone can master their own mind but not without effort.

  • First develop a plan (or follow someone else’s) – make sure it’s a good one
  • Find a buddy, a partner, a trainer, or a sergeant to hold you accountable
  • Follow the plan
  • Measure your success and offer incremental rewards
  • Achieve results

So we see the process is simple to understand, uncomplicated to devise, BUT (there’s alway a but, and yes, you will always have a butt) discipline is the magic element. If I told you this bottle of 500 pills I’m giving you would drop the pounds, you’d take the pills consistently, wouldn’t you? That requires discipline. If I told you this bottle of cream would get rid of cellulite you’d use it religiously wouldn’t you? And hopefully you’re in the habit of brushing your teeth each night before bed. Habituated patterns come in both the ‘good’ and ‘bad’category. And we’re all capable when we engage the will, which, like any muscle, needs exercising. More on that at http://zendances.wordpress.com/2007/04/25/discipline/

There are plenty of areas of your life where you’re disciplined. Along with brushing your teeth, more than likely you fill the car with gas when it needs it, buy groceries when you need to, clip your nails and apply your make-up… I mean this all takes discipline as well so you do have what it takes – I promise! So the questions are can you develop this discipline? How badly do you want this? Are you willing to devote some time, energy and resources to it? If it was easy, would you want it as bad?

Changing patterns is a stretch for us humans. We aren’t, culturally, prone to caring well for ourselves. Most of us alive now have lived well, in the moment, accustomed to instant gratification. But we can grow up, change ourselves, lead healthier, fuller lives with a bit of effort.

My favorite motivator is this question – am I a good role model? For my kids, my students, for my clients? Am I earning the right to be a leader? Could I be doing a better job? What if my own children came to me with this problem- how would I counsel them? And remember- you must have a buddy, a helper, a coach – someone who will give you that nudge when the last thing you want to do is put on your shoes. The will does gets stronger the more you work it.