The Coronavirus has changed the world as we know it. These are tough times right now and we are all living with incredible uncertainty. That uncertainty is causing an array of emotions -anger, fear, guilt, sadness and curiosity. This is all natural for us as humans. We feel incredibly threatened and have no true idea of what life will look like in the future. I think most of us would agree, life will never be the same. Hopefully this will not only be a challenging time but also a time for all of us to learn how to help each other and the universe. And humans are resilient-we will get through this!
If there was ever a time to call on your spiritual journey to carry you through it is now. A Course in Miracles teaches that we can’t change the world, but we can change our minds about the world. We are all going to see the world differently. We can’t control everything going on right now. All you can do is live every moment, follow common sense precautions like hand washing and social distancing. Taking normal precautions is a good thing but if we let our fear, guilt and anger overtake us, we will be no help to the world.
We can best help by keeping ourselves healthy so that those who really need the frontline care of our courageous doctors, nurses, and health care workers can get the proper care with the proper equipment. They are the boddhisatvas- a Buddhist term for one who stays around until everyone is healed before taking the final step into Nirvana.
Did you know that the sanskrit word for compassion is Karuna? I heard this on a Dharma talk the other day and I thought- “Wow” That doesn’t sound a whole lot different than Corona, which actually means crown. I’d like to think that rather than be afflicted with coronavirus, which they say we may all have a touch of, we could be afflicted with koruna – compassion for everyone right now. None of us are totally sure how to handle our lives right now so reach out with calm and kindness as much as possible.
Here are some other ways to balance the anxiety and stress of these uncertain times.
Meditate – Simply give your self time to sit, breathe, and allow whatever thoughts and feelings to come up-tears are good and so is laughter. See my post on meditation.
Yoga and Tai Chi or just meditative dance are all fun and relaxing. Put on some quiet music or a video and move through your favorite poses. Sometimes I just put on healing music and dance like I’m floating.
Take a break from television and social media. We can become oversaturated with newscasts and updates. It is good to stay abreast to directives for how to live and work right now, but not all day. I notice how emotional we can get when our fear takes over-that will just fry your immune system
Boost your Immune System. Keep your cells healthy. Check out my post https://themiddlewayhealth.com/our-internal-warrior-the-immune-system/on taking care of it by healthy eating and drinking but more importantly healthy doing and thinking.
Exercise-One of the best things you can do right now is to keep moving. Many people have worried about gaining weight while isolated. Easy to grab snacks and eat out of anxiety and boredom. Get out and walk, if you can. When I am on the phone (unless it is a coaching call) I walk inside my house-amazing how many steps on I can get this way. There are some great fitness videos and workouts on You Tube.
Cook and Plan healthy meals. I happen to love to cook but friends who have just been eating out in the past are now getting back to enjoying their kitchens and culinary creativity. Get out the cook books and have fun making nutritious and colorful foods.
CONTACT ME FOR MORE STRESS MANAGEMENT TIPS OR IF YOU WOULD LIKE COACHING IN MEDITATION AND WELLNESS
A friend of mine just turned 80, and was pleased to have passed his last physical exam with flying colors. He shared some of his lifestyle secrets. Besides getting plenty of enjoyable exercise, he enjoys “a fine, mellow, exquisite, small cigar to CELEBRATE LIFE…. at night, under the stars, on my deck…” but said that Above ALL: Thanks to my meditations I have NO stress, NO anxieties, No tension, No fears. How come? I simply drop it all, every night in deep meditation. It works like magic! “
So what is this magic? Meditation has several health benefits and positively affects our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Relaxing the mind actually relaxes the body, the blood vessels, the cells, and thus can lower blood pressure and stress hormones resulting in a sense of calm and the ability to focus, and more clearly manage life’s challenges with balance. Meditation is very healing, because when we quiet our mind, each cell in our body relaxes.
Spiritually, meditation is used as a time to simply be at peace with one’s definition of God, or empty one’s mind in order to connect to a higher power. It seems that when one desires this connection to be continuous, every moment could be a meditation, and life would flow in a way that would decrease our fears, worries, and tension. We would take life less seriously and enjoy it more.
Ideally you would stay mindful and relaxed as much as possible during the day. But most people live a very rushed, busy life, and are plagued with the human condition of “monkey mind” where our thoughts jump from place to place often disconnecting and leaving our mind overwhelmed and the body tired. And face it, many people find a quiet mind kind of boring.
Hence the need for setting aside a regular time for practicing meditation and training our minds to focus on one thing; the breath, a candle, a prayer, a mantra, or as in Zen, absolutely nothing.
There are many definitions of meditation and many forms of practice. There are several great books on meditation. One of my favorites is The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. I love his teaching because the goal is not to have to sit at a certain time of the day, but to be mindful and pay attention to your breath, and to what your are doing and thinking throughout the day. When you wash dishes, you pay attention to washing dishes. When you eat, you pay attention to eating. Your everyday activities become the focus of your meditation.
The concept of mindfulness as meditation is quite magical, and with practice life becomes a joyful and blessed experience even in the midst of the most stressful situations. As my friend so clearly exemplifies, health comes from living a life of moderation in all things, celebrating life, and dropping our worries and fears by practicing the magic of meditation.
CONTACT ME IF YOU WOULD LIKE COACHING IN MEDITATION AND WELLNESS
“Guilt feelings, regimentation, and deprivation have no place in our method. We will show you how permanent weight loss can take place in an atmosphere of freedom.” Dr. Leonard Pearson and Lilian Pearson The Psychologist’s Eat-Anything Diet
The Diet Book That Changed My Life
By the time I entered nursing school I had been on every popular diet and counted every calorie, blossoming to a heaping 138 pounds by the end of freshman year. For a 5 foot 2 inch frame this was not a healthy weight. Exercise and sports were not appealing as a teenager, so once I stopped the childhood play—-climbing trees, playing tag or kick the can, or just walking to friend’s houses and school, my body typified the chubby teen. I also smoked cigarettes when I was 16 and generally was clueless about taking care of myself. Often I felt like I was on survival mode, living from one day to the next, getting through school with a plan to become a nurse and support myself.
I remember feeling depressed when I felt fat and feeling elated when I saw the pounds come off, but generally, this was a yo-yo routine without lasting results.
It was when I met my future husband that things began to change. First of all, he was into exercise, so I started jogging. Adding exercise in my life did allow me to lose some weight and enjoy food more. Then, one day I found the book that changed my life. The Psychologist’s Eat-Anything Diet–Wow! This was intriguing. Up to this point I had counted every calorie ,and felt like my mind went from craving or rejecting food and cigarettes. I had no idea what it would be like to really enjoy eating without feeling guilt or deprivation.
This book promised that when you finished reading it, you would be able to:
- Eat your favorite foods.
- Realize there are no taboo or forbidden foods.
- Free yourself from the tyranny of food.
- Get rid of your scales and daily weighing routine.
- Quit counting calories and stop dieting.
- Forget about proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and other old diet standbys.
Dr. Leonard Pearson, a clinical psychologist and his wife, Lillian Pearson, a social worker, applied their knowledge and practice of humanistic psychology and their work with Dr. Carl Rogers, to develop a weight loss program that would not only change how one looks but also what one thinks when it comes to diet and weight management.
They felt that “overeating is complex with many causes.” One of the basic principles of the book is that people do not eat what their body is calling them to eat. Often a weight loss program cuts out foods that you love. Calorie counting becomes regimented, and there is little pleasure or satisfaction at mealtimes.
For me, my mind was always thinking about what I was going to eat and how many calories I was going to consume. These thoughts would often control my mind, and I felt like I almost needed a brain overhaul to get rid of this awful way of thinking and living.
This book offered a set of exercises to increase food awareness and develop more intuitive approaches to choosing what you were going to eat from one meal to the next.
I learned to get in touch with what my favorite foods were and why I enjoyed them. I also learned that when we crave something we have to eat it. The Pearsons also defined beckoning as those foods that call you after seeing them in a window or smelling the aroma of the food from a store, home or restaurant.
Part II of the book offered “Exercises for Food and Drink Awareness and Sensuous Eating.” This would be fun!
I remember the “chip eating exercise” and sitting on our bathroom vanity with a bag of cheese covered Doritos and watching myself eat them. The idea was to chew the chip and watch your mouth chew, while also experiencing the taste of the chip and getting a feel for what it is about the chip that you like—is it the crunch? The salt? The cheese flavor? And in that case, the recommendation was to lick the cheese off the chip and throw the chip away and see if the craving was satisfied. I found that was the case for me. What I liked about the cheese flavored Doritos was the topping. So I would sit on the vanity watching myself eat the chip and lick off the cheese and throw the chip in the wastebasket. Of course, my roommates thought this was nuts, but hey—it was nursing school, and we all had our idiosyncrasies.
The purpose of the exercises was to become aware of why we eat, what we crave, what our body really wants, what is truly satisfying in the eating experience and essentially renew our joy of food.
Chocolate chip cookies were another experience. What is it about the cookie I liked? It was partially the crunch, definitely the chocolate, and a bit about the sugar. What I found with chocolate chip cookies is that I was satisfied if I simply picked the chocolate chip out of the cookie. With chocolate walnut brownies, what I loved was the walnut covered with brownie so I would pick the walnut out of the brownie and throw the rest away or give the crumbs to someone who liked the taste of plain brownie without the chocolate chips.
You see, when you crave food, you definitely are wanting a taste, a texture or an experience. You must satisfy that craving, or you will eat everything in sight until you get what it is you really want.
I used the principles of these books in my later years in my wellness presentations about diet and exercise. Let’s say you crave a Graeter’s turtle sundae — think about it— scoops of pure vanilla ice-cream topped with caramel sauce, chocolate, and pecans. Graeter’s chocolate sundae has about 1200 calories-that’s almost a whole day’s allotment of calories, but, if you must have it you must have it- make that your breakfast and lunch for the day or lunch and dinner and eat well the rest of the day. Truly your body will not suffer if the one day you crave a turtle sundae you indulge.
On the other hand, let’s say you wouldn’t dare. So you have the craving, and you deny yourself the experience. Instead, you have a chocolate cookie. If you want that taste or texture or flavor or experience, you will probably eat several chocolate cookies just trying to do the same thing. Or let’s say you eat the carrot sticks you have in the refrigerator for when you have to eat something but don’t want to ruin your diet, and you want to “be good.” You’ll eat every carrot you have just to satisfy some sort of sweet tooth, or in frustration, keep noshing or grazing only to realize that you are trying to meet your body’s need for a turtle sundae in an impossible way.
The better and lower calorie way would be to buy a turtle chocolate candy or two. If you need the taste of the ice cream, get some frozen low-fat yogurt. Now at least you get the chocolate, the caramel, the pecans, and the feeling of cold vanilla flavored creamy dessert cooling your mouth and flowing down the esophagus to a more satisfied stomach. Here you probably ate about 300 calories tops, but you satisfied the craving.
Do you get it? You can’t ignore your cravings, or you will not feel satisfied physically or emotionally.
So I learned what foods were calling me. What was I really in the mood for? What taste was I dreaming of? What would I really enjoy? I learned to close my eyes and get in touch with my true needs nutritionally and mindfully. Before opening a menu, I would get in touch with what I had a taste for and look for that item or a combination of items that would satisfy my craving. Most of the time I ate less because I knew that I could have whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it as long as I was clear and honest about what I needed.
During my learning and experimental days with this new way of not dieting, I did have a negative experience it is only fair to share with you. Before classes in nursing school, we would sometimes meet in the cafeteria for breakfast. On this new not diet, I would go through the line and look at the food and only take what was really calling me to eat. One morning I had such a craving for the big gooey pecan roll. Instead of just getting one with maybe some yogurt or milk to balance it off, I decided to take two pecan rolls, with the idea that at lunch I would choose something lighter because I would be satisfied and full from this breakfast. Well as I got up from our table, fully satisfied and content with my consumption of this gooey treat, I fainted right there and fell on the floor of the cafeteria. I was quickly rushed next door to the emergency department where I was diagnosed with severe hypoglycemia. My blood sugar had dropped to 40 (normal being 80-100). I was quickly given an IV solution of glucagon, the glucose substance used for diabetics who have an insulin reaction.
Well — this too was a good experience, because what I learned is that we cannot live by bread or carbohydrates alone. We do need to balance our food and have some protein at every meal. I would have been okay had I eaten one pecan roll and some yogurt or even a small glass of milk.
But this was all part of the experiment. I learned how to eat in a way that was fun, guilt-free, and allowed me to experience life and food in a whole new way. For the first time in my life, I was free of the diet mindset. I thought about food, but without having to imagine depriving myself of my favorite foods. Nothing was off-limits anymore. Also, I only ate when I was actually hungry, and stopped eating when I felt satisfied. I knew that I could eat anything I wanted whenever I craved it, and I did not have to raid the refrigerator and eat everything in sight to get there.
I truly learned to enjoy my food, and I do believe that since food is so essential and eating is such an integral part of daily life-not just to nourish the body, but also to nourish the soul and meet social needs, we must not just eat to live but live to eat.
If more people enjoyed the eating experience and the vast array of wonderful food without the guilt associated with indulgence, we would have less obesity in this world.
To this day, I truly eat what I am in the mood for and what calls me. Gradually I did give up my taste for red meat and most high-fat foods. I have grown to savor fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, fish and nuts. I allow myself to eat dessert or candy to satisfy my sweet tooth, but my body has learned to enjoy fresh and healthy food.
I offer coaching on weight loss, smoking cessation, and lifestyle change. Contact me for a free introductory session.
And if you like this post feel free to share it!
“We see that harmony does not mean a balance -at -rest, but a vibrant, bi-polar energy force that urges on all other energy.” – Matthew Fox
“Blessings and Balance, Balance and Blessings, For from Balance comes all Blessings.” – Grandmother Keewaydinoquay, Ojibway Medicine Woman.
TAMING THE BULL
I’m a Taurus, and we bulls can have a lot of energy. I certainly do. Sometimes I feel like there are fireworks inside me ready to explode. I feel like running – usually I tone it down and take a long walk. Other times I have used up my energy and need a rest.
I think I have always had a vast amount of energy. I also have used it up to the point of fatigue. The challenge is learning to balance energy. You only have so much. The body produces energy all the time. We also use up energy. The good news is our bodies and minds were made to balance.
I once went to a therapist who noted the unbalanced and unhealthy way my energy would go up and down. He used an excellent analogy to explain the art of balance. He said to imagine that you have two clear cookie jars and in each of the jars are “gobnicks” of energy. You could picture the “gobnicks” as marbles for instance. Now imagine that one of the jars represents the gobnicks of energy you spend or use. There are days when that jar is full to the brim, and if it were popcorn on a burner, it would pop all over the place. Other days it is only half full, so there needs to be room for the conservation of energy. Other days, those days of low energy, fatigue – there are few or no gobnicks left.
What he pointed out is that when we use our gobnicks, we have to find a way to replace them. The other jar represents the gobnicks of energy that you pay back or restore. We restore our energy or pay back our gobnicks by relaxing, meditating, or taking a quiet walk in the woods. Some people gain energy when they do some invigorating exercise. A talk with a friend or reading a good book can help us gain perspective and energy. These activities restore energy and refuel the body and mind. Whatever it is that creates peace or happiness will restore energy. Activities that involve judgment, analysis, work that is not in line with one’s passion, running or racing against time with a sense of urgency will deplete energy. And there needs to be a balance. Energy in and energy out and energy in and energy out. Balance would be a cookie jar that is at least half-full always. At times life will take more gobnicks. At those times you may need more meditation or quiet time.
If you don’t replace gobnicks of energy with tools for physical, emotional and spiritual replenishment, you will likely suffer from “burnout.” If you stay burned out, you will likely slip into a depression. If you allow life to take you this far on empty, it will take more energy to get back to a healthy state of being.
The key is to listen to your body and watch how you are using your mind. Awareness of energy levels is essential.
It would seem that vacations would replace gobnicks, but instead often they take much of our energy. Sightseeing involves thinking. Packing and running to airports, figuring out flight times and hotel arrangements all take a great amount of energy. On your arrival, you hurry up to have a darn good time. No sooner are you unpacked, you run out and catch the sunshine at the beach or climb mountains or enjoy every minute. You are still racing and running with a sense of urgency to get it all in. After all, when will you be back to experience this place? On returning home from vacation often our bodies and minds feel tired. In fact, often we are more tired than when we left, and the cookie jar comes back drained.
The most relaxing vacations are those where you stay at a beautiful bed and breakfast or a retreat facility and let time and energy guide your activities and schedule. On a retreat it is relaxing to build in prayer and quiet time; eat healthy foods and take long walks around the accommodations or in the woods. I usually go to bed early and wake up early. I journal and enjoy where I am and every moment of my time.
If I am traveling with my husband, we usually stay in bed and breakfasts, travel at our leisure, keep our plans open and enjoy the time together.
We walk a lot. Our bodies love the exercise. We also eat more rich foods on vacation, especially at breakfast. We enjoy our host’s recipe specialties and the company of other guests. We usually do some shopping without a sense of having to buy. Sometimes we attend a lecture in the area where we learn something new or hear an author or speaker who we may never experience in our area. We also go to bed early and rise at our leisure. We avoid doing any business on our vacations and seldom watch television or listen to the radio. We sometimes read a daily newspaper, but if we miss a day, we don’t feel a need to catch up. We enjoy each other in all ways- physically, emotionally and even spiritually.
You know when you’ve overspent your energy. The throat gets sore; your ear may hurt, which is usually a swollen gland and the signs that the immune system is weak. You may catch a cold and have symptoms because the body could not fight it. You may feel more tired and sleep later. Despite it all we often keep going as much as we can.
I do try to take an afternoon nap and pace myself throughout the day. I should do more yoga and meditation, but I am more likely to take a walk or journal-it seems my make-up likes to be “doing something” rather than just sitting.
I have many tools for stress management and balance. For me, this is the key to not breaking down. In fact, what I usually have are “ nervous breakthroughs” instead of nervous breakdowns. Even since childhood, I have only let myself be down for a few days. Inside I would fight back at whatever was getting me down. There was always something to bring me through. I would think of everything positive or bake a cake or call a friend.
When I was a young adult in nursing school, and later when I started working at my first jobs, stress took a toll on my body. I was diagnosed with various psychosomatic illnesses, but then I was not aware of healing techniques to relax my body and mind. It was not playtime anymore. I was studying or working and under much pressure to complete education and career goals. Exercise was the first tool I learned, but I also learned to overdo it. Later I found journaling, meditation, and yoga to be helpful tools. I also learned more about vitamins and herbs and holistic healing.
Recently someone said he thought I had more energy than most people did and that he bet I never got down or lost it. I explained that I did get down and just like everybody else I could use up my energy. However, I have learned to use my stress management tools before I burn out.
Being a Taurus, I often feel the bull in me – running with those horns out – going forward without looking to see who is in my way – and determined to go until something in my path stops me. I need to remind myself to restore those gobnicks.
That analogy I learned years ago is one of those pieces of advice that has always made sense. I have shared it with others, and it is so simple.
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY AND HAPPY HEALTHY HEART MONTH
February is Healthy Heart Month and Valentine’s Day is a great time to start healing your heart. You know from my last blog that laughter is healing. Here are 14 more tips for health and heart healing. They are not in any particular order. They are all important.https://themiddlewayhealth.com/a-new-years-resolution-you-can-keep-dont-forget-to-laugh/
- If you do nothing else for your health-Buy a Pedometer.Exercise and movement are the best medicine. Make it a goal to get 10,000 steps a day. You can get the steps by simply walking, going about your daily activities, shopping, or dancing. Yes-dancing. When I have to get more steps in my day, I will put on my favorite music or television show and dance around my family room. I might also add some running in place, marching, side steps or fast walking around the house. You would be amazed at how steps accumulate just from moving.
- Eat Breakfast. Research has shown that people who skip breakfast pack in more calories throughout the day. By starting your day with breakfast you are telling your body it is going to be well fed throughout the day and you needn’t binge at points of hunger. A great breakfast is fresh fruit especially berries, high fiber low sugar (less than 6 grams) cereal, live cultured plain yogurt (no sugar) and a cup of coffee or tea. A few times a week you may want to add an egg for additional protein. That’s great on days you are working out at the gym or getting heavy-duty exercise in.
- Spices Spice up your food. Indian spices like curry powder, cumin, turmeric and cardamom are very healthy. These spices have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help to prevent illness. These are especially important during cold and flu season. Garlic and oregano are also excellent additions to any recipe and both can have antibiotic properties.
- Eat broccoli several times a week. Broccoli is a great vegetable for fiber, vitamin C, and anticancer properties. Raw broccoli is great with low-calorie dips made with live cultured yogurt. Cooked broccoli is very beneficial as long as when you eat it, the bright green color is still there. Other heart-healthy veggies are asparagus, Brussel sprouts, and beets.
- Include Wild Alaskan salmon in your diet at least once a week. This salmon is a source of the fish oil that prevents heart disease. Salmon is a great source of protein and has the good fat that protects the heart. For heart health remember SMASH – Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Snapper, and Halibut are the best fish choices for a healthy heart.
- Drink red wine Studies are showing that one glass of red wine (4-5oz) a day is good for your heart. The wine has a powerful antioxidant –resveratrol and also relaxes your body and mind to alleviate the stressors of the day. Stick with dry red wines. White wine can also add some benefit, but does not have the healthy -resveratrol.
- Practice meditation Meditation calms the mind, reduces stress, and with practice can aid in reducing blood pressure. Meditation does not have to be complicated-simply site, close your eyes, focus on your breath, and watch your mind without having to do anything about your thoughts. There are many apps you can download to your phone that help you to meditate. My favorite is Insight timer.
- Practice Forgiveness. Holding onto resentment and anger will only make you sick. Open your heart to how another feels and you may find yourself able to have compassion for the other side of the story. Forgiveness is the key to happiness and healing. The premise of A Course in Miracles is forgiveness. I have been studying and teaching the Course for over 30 years now and facilitate a monthly group meeting.
- Eat Dark Chocolate Steve and I eat two squares of dark chocolate almost every night after dinner. Dark chocolate has many healing properties. it not only tastes good but it is good for you. The darker the chocolate the better. it is rich in antioxidants and flavanols-powerful healing substances. Chocolate is also said to be good for the skin and because it supports keeping the blood fluid and flowing is helpful in preventing stroke and heart disease.
- Garlic is one of my favorite staples. Garlic is not only an antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral natural antibiotic, but garlic also is very good for the heart. Garlic is thought to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation. I travel with garlic and add it to my toast, soups, and whatever I can at the first sign of illness. Check out my garlic soup recipe.
- No Smoking If you smoke-QUIT. It goes without saying, smoking kills every organ of the body, especially the heart and lungs. I hate to admit that I smoked years ago and quit when I was 30. I am so glad I no longer smoke. It is not easy to quit. You have to see yourself as a non-smoker instead of an ex-smoker. Health has to be your top priority. Coaching can help.
- Eat healthy fats. Olive oil and Avacado are two of the best heart-healthy fats you can eat. I substitute olive oil for butter and oil in most recipes. I also love to have avocados cut up fresh or in my delicious guacamole. Avocados are also a delicious topping for toast. Make sure they are ripe enough. They should feel slightly soft to touch but not brown.
- Drink lots of water and avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners in soda pop and juices. Water is the purest beverage. Add a little lemon or even fresh cucumbers for flavor. Filtered water is best. We have an Aqua Pure filter under our sink and to our refrigerator. If you buy bottled water, buy filtered not spring as you have no idea how pure the spring water is. Most important is to drink water throughout the day.
- Practice the Middle Way. Keep your life balanced and joyful by following the path of moderation in all things. Avoid extremes and let go of judgment of yourself and others. If you need help along the way and are ready to change your life, coaching can be a helpful path to living life to the fullest. This blog and my coaching are dedicated to promoting health the Middle Way. Feel free to share any of my articles. I am forever grateful for my readers and welcome new subscribers.