Archive for ‘Simple Soutions’

September 10, 2018

My Five Feel Good Things for the Week

We all need five feel good things for the week every week, but sometimes we need them just a little bit more. My 4-month-old granddaughter is back in CVICU after a second heart surgery. We’ve been through this before and we knew this was coming. Somehow that doesn’t make it any easier.

While I was writing this, the elderly cousin of whom I’m in charge was taken to the hospital. When stressful life events come in a large wave, it’s easy to get sucked into a place where it’s hard to feel good. In order to avoid that, I like to have Five Feel Good Things to look forward to picked out in advance. It’s part of my self-care structure.

It’s easy for people to advise self-care, but next to impossible to practice it in a difficult moment unless you have a structure in place. Think of this structure as temporary shoring to hold and support you whenever you need it. Your structure can include anything that makes you feel safe, solid, peaceful, calm, good, joyous, or happy.
raspberries
Here’s what’s lined up to make me feel good this week:

Chocolate Bliss
I absolutely love Luna & Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss Dark Chocolate Frozen Dessert Bars! Made with coconut milk, agave syrup, cocoa, and vanilla extract, each bar is dairy free, soy free, gluten-free and has 160 calories. The texture is soft and dense. The flavor is chocolate delight.

Total Body Yoga
Yoga makes me feel relaxed, but also strong and solid. Sometimes I do yoga for knees or hips. Sometimes I do yoga for strength. Sometimes I do yoga for relaxation. This week, I want a deep stretch for the whole body.

The keys are to practice with an instructor who makes me feel calm and to practice at home. If I have to adhere to a class schedule, there’s a good chance I’ll miss out. At home, I can practice any time I have a few minutes.

I may choose Yoga with Adriene on YouTube or Wellness Through Yoga with Kanta Barrios on Amazon Prime. These two instructors are my current favorites.

Cowboy Boots
Last week I took DJ to a horse show. I wore my brown, turquoise, and red Lucchese boots. We walked and walked and walked — upstairs, downstairs, through the barns, around the arena and the whole time I was thinking how much I like walking in boots.

It’s just a bit difficult to put together several outfits per week that go with turquoise and red. As soon as my Frye Harness brown, square toe boots arrive, I plan to walk in them a lot.

Binge Watching
Binge watching is a fun way to zone out. Sometimes binge watching a show I liked in the past is just what the doctor ordered to give me perspective. Roku TV currently has all 4 seasons of Cybill. Seasons were a lot longer in the 90s, so I don’t know how far I’ll get, but I’m going to kick off my boots and carve out some time to ignore reality and enjoy Mary Ann’s banter.

Raspberries
I can eat raspberries by the fistful. I like the bright red color and the delicate flavor. They’re delicious with no embellishment and eating them makes me happy.

Just writing about these five feel good things makes me feel….well, good! And that is the point.

https://coconutbliss.com/bliss/dark-chocolate-bars

https://therokuchannel.roku.com/details/w.V1Ya7eWoy0FPrwwGW16KTV2jwvm0mGcaGbJY926aiw6l9aAl2gCJBD5qLyR/cybill-s1-e1-episode-1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLy2rYHwUqY&t=548s

http://www.kantabarriosyoga.com/

https://www.thefryecompany.com/womens/featured/shop-the-campaign/harness-12r-d-77298

https://www.tradesy.com/i/lucchese-blue-1883-red-brown-leather-western-cowboy-cowgirl-women-s-bootsbooties-size-us-6-regular-m/16447027/
ad
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

August 7, 2018

Time for Another Pantry Challenge

My pantry is a mess; it’s time for another pantry challenge. My range broke recently and you can see it in my pantry. Apparently I’ve been cooking less, but buying as if I’m going through food at the regular rate. There are so many layers of lazily stacked pasta, tuna, honey, chicken stock, strained tomatoes, and baker’s chocolate I can’t see what else is in there. My sister calls making yourself use what’s in the pantry a pantry challenge.
pantry
If I make this pantry challenge a game for my grandson DJ, maybe I can accomplish two things at the same time. At the ripe old age of two, DJ has become a picky eater. He used to love broccoli, beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, bananas, blackberries, steak, chicken, and bacon.

Now he only wants cheese, cheese dip, cheese quesadillas, cheese crackers, and cottage cheese. Funny thing though, he doesn’t like mac & cheese or other typical kid food for that matter. He won’t eat hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, French fries, or mashed potatoes either.

Truthfully, he likes hummus, pretzels, applesauce, grapes, raisins, dried mango, dried figs, scrambled eggs, pancakes, and pizza. But we’d really like for him to eat more green vegetables, fresh fruit, and meat, fish, or poultry. We’d also like for him to enjoy whatever we’re eating.
stove
DJ has his own stove – a metal one that I played with in my grandmother’s attic when I was his age. DJ has also started helping me cook. He likes to add salt and pepper and stir with a whisk. Maybe if I let him choose one or two things from the pantry as the basis for a meal he can help prepare, he’ll be willing to taste a wider variety of food.

If he chooses a box of pasta and strained tomatoes from the pantry, we’ll be in good shape. I’ll make pasta with some kind of red sauce that includes meat. If he chooses tuna and green chiles, I can make a southwest tuna casserole. On the other hand, if he chooses a bottle of vinegar and a bag of caramel chips I may have to think for a very long minute.

I don’t really want to reorganize the pantry until I’ve emptied some of its contents, but I may need some rules to keep this challenge headed in a positive direction. Here’s what I’m thinking…I’ll choose 6 items, sit them on the counter and let DJ choose 2 from the preselected inventory.

Then he can help me prepare something with the two items he has chosen. As long as I pick 6 things that can be mixed and matched easily, I can use the other 4 in the same dish or an accompanying one later in the day. DJ is here two days each week. Using 6 items at a time, the excess should be gone quickly.

A quick look in the pantry reveals these possibilities…

Wednesday’s proposed selection can be mixed and matched several ways:
Egg noodles
Black beans
Chicken stock
Tuna
Green chiles
Gluten-free breadcrumbs

Next Monday’s options lean toward something Asian:
Tamari gluten-free soy sauce
Rice
Honey
Mandarin oranges
Raw cashews
Shredded coconut

The following Wednesday could lend us cornbread:
Yellow cornmeal
White cornmeal
Sweet white sorghum flour
Sugar
Shortening
Baking powder

Another Monday will garner ingredients for a hearty salad:
Quinoa
Pimentos
Dried figs
Pecans
Pumpkin seeds
Golden raisins

As I dig deeper, I’m sure to find other suitable combinations. I’ll probably let one day be dessert treats just to keep the game fun. I know I have some chocolate chips and marshmallows hanging out somewhere in the pantry. I can make gluten-free grammy crackers in advance & we can make s’mores. Maybe we’ll make solar s’mores on the back porch. It’s certainly hot enough!

In a couple of weeks I’ll have reduced the pantry contents to a more acceptable level. At that point, I’ll reorganize and get rid of anything that’s too old. Then I can resume shopping as usual.

In the meantime…game on!

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/?s=pantry

June 19, 2018

Notice What Feels Good to Improve the Feeling in Your Gut

When you’re in distress, it’s hard to notice what feels good. If your head hurts, it draws your attention. If your tummy hurts, it draws your attention. If you suffer a loss, the resulting sadness, emptiness and fear draw your attention. When four or five difficult things happen during a short period of time, the feeling in your gut may be so stressful it can become increasingly difficult to notice what feels good.

I suppose it’s the same phenomenon as the squeaky wheel. If some part of us is screaming for attention, that’s where our energy goes. Unfortunately, over a long period of time this shift in focus can become a habit. When the focus on distress becomes intolerable, we tend to do anything we can to avoid feeling it. We often numb ourselves with work, shopping, sex, exercise, binge-watching, gaming, alcohol, or drugs.

Is there a way to feel the good in the midst of hardship?

You’ll find a lot of things written about practicing gratitude. I’ve written some myself. You’ll find a lot of information about being present in the moment. You’ll find resources on showing up authentically and practicing vulnerability. You’ll hear psychological professionals toss around the term self-care. You’ll hear religious leaders espouse prayer. Yeah, yeah, yeah. There is merit to all of these practices, but if you’re white-knuckling yourself into doing them, you may need to go backward to go forward.

Over the past few years as I’ve become able to sit still, able to practice yoga, able to know that intellectual insight will follow trusting my body’s signals, I have become increasingly aware that ease, comfort, stability, and balance are often present when I slow down and shift my focus.

After noticing a feeling of tension in my back, I may notice a feeling of ease in my right abdomen. If I hold onto that feeling of ease, I may feel my back relax. When I feel anger or agitation begin to bubble up, I may notice that synchronizing my movement and breathing causes the tension to quickly dissipate. Remembering that when some part of my body is working, another part is at ease allows me to shift my focus to notice ease more often.

It is this noticing of physical ease and comfort that helps me unknot the discomfort in other parts of my body. The unknotting of my mind always follows. Yes, always. The shift is often tiny. The key is making the space to notice. It is in the noticing that I reconnect with my body. It is in the noticing that I reconnect with real emotions. It is through breathing that I build resilience, confidence, and safety.

Notice that the only connection here is with myself? Notice there is no analysis required? Notice that I don’t try to figure anything out? Notice that I am not forcing myself to do anything? I can simply breathe and notice. Breathe and notice. Breathe and notice.

I have gone back to absolute basics. It sounds so simple. It is and it isn’t. If you’re like me and surrender feels like giving up, it’s one of the hardest concepts in the world! It has literally taken me years to even begin to surrender and I am still a beginner.

If you stabilize your world through control, hold your breath, or muscle through difficult situations, this post may seem like the most ludicrous thing you’ve ever read. When you reach the point that all of that muscling through leaves you with anxiety and constant panic, come back. Read it again.

The bottom line is, yes there is a way to feel good during hardship. It comes from what some would call receiving. That term confuses me, so I’ll call it noticing — noticing breath, ease, comfort, accomplishment, a feeling of solidness your legs provide, a feeling of strength, a feeling of contribution, a feeling of connection, a feeling of competence, a feeling of possibility, and a feeling of power.

When you’re noticing those things, you are not noticing a feeling of tension, a feeling of heaviness, a feeling of pain, a feeling of sadness, a feeling of loss, a feeling of fatigue, a feeling of panic, a feeling of overwhelm, a feeling of anger, a feeling of powerlessness, a feeling of helplessness, a feeling of loneliness, a feeling of worthlessness, a feeling of doom, a feeling of bracing for the next shoe to drop, etc.

You are not wrong for feeling any of these things, but in an odd way, noticing the opposites will allow you to stop avoiding, fighting, numbing, or trying to move away from “negative” feelings (feelings are feelings and all are okay). All feelings can then move freely instead of remaining stuck in our physiology and psyche.

How all of this works is understudied, but we are learning that yoga practiced specifically to reconnect trauma patients with their bodies affects change in their brain scans. We are also learning that gut neurons communicate with the insula in the brain — the area believed to control compassion and empathy, perception, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive functioning, and interpersonal experience.

Body, brain, emotions, and perception share a complex relationship. We can’t necessarily think or talk our way through an emotional problem, set good boundaries, or move on from trauma without reconnecting with our bodies. When we reconnect, our gut flora may affect our perceptions.

The easiest path I know to feeling better is to start with basics – eat a variety of as fresh as possible food with minimal sweets, stay hydrated, sleep at least 8 hours per night, incorporate yoga for trauma and/or guided meditation into your exercise plan, and strengthen your boundaries.

Then…
Notice the feeling of being nourished by your food. Time your eating so that you never feel distressed by hunger.
Notice how you feel when you awake rested and how you feel the first moment you become tired. Do not push past your tired feeling. Take a nap or go to bed.
Choose yoga that emphasizes your control over the process, moves slowly, and has an instructor with a soothing manner and voice.
Practice giving yourself permission to prioritize yourself. Notice how that feels.
Use a physical boundary to help yourself visualize your limits. Verbalize your boundaries when needed.
Notice a feeling of ease each time you notice a feeling of tension.
Notice how you feel when you make a decision that’s unlike previous decisions in similar situations. If you feel peaceful, calm, relieved, energized, freer, happy, joyful, or even neutral

With these simple steps, you may be surprised how quickly you begin to automatically notice what feels good! That can have a very positive effect on the feeling in your gut!

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-second-brain/

http://besselvanderkolk.net/the-body-keeps-the-score.html

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/yoga-perfect-home-workout/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/gratitude-is-my-best-defense/

May 28, 2018

You May Need a Nap

If you’re eating well and exercising, but everything feels like a bigger deal than usual, you may need a nap. You may need more than a single nap. You may need more sleep on a regular basis. If you’re under a significant amount of ongoing stress, you may need a good night’s sleep, a nap, and additional down time.
nap
My father-in-law swore by the 20-minute power nap. One of only 3 physicians in a town of 7000, he worked long hours. Every day at lunch, he’d come home to eat and then sleep in his recliner for 20 minutes. He didn’t set an alarm. He just woke up ready to go back to the clinic. He seemed to take the long hours in stride, so I guess naps worked for him.

Each of us has individual sleep needs. A regular 20-minute power nap may work for some while others need a full 8 hours each and every night. Others may function well on 6 or 7 hours during the week supplemented by 10 to 12 on the weekend. Because the particular rhythm is individual, it can be difficult to determine when a lack of sleep first begins to cause problems.

Like many conditions, the effects of sleep deprivation compound slowly over time tricking us into thinking we’re experiencing something normal rather than problematic. Failing to recognize and correct the problem slowly erodes emotional resiliency, the immune system, and our overall health. Early signs could be that you notice feeling more than tired or irritable. Perhaps you feel foggy, forgetful, or have minor hallucinations. Perhaps you feel more anxious than usual or seem to lack the joy that you previously felt. Any of these can be indicators that you are not getting enough rest.

We all have long to-do lists and such an expectation of immediacy that it can be tempting to ignore our bodies’ signals until we reach the point of exhaustion or other health concerns. Obviously, it is better to recognize the signs early and remedy the problem before it affects our immune systems or leads to a chronic condition like diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease.

Making the time to slow down is a constant challenge. Meditation and yoga can help, but where can you find time to work them in? And the more pressure you put on yourself, the harder it is to let your mind rest.
big deal
If this were easy, we’d all get enough rest, but according to the CDC almost a third of us are sleep deprived (defined as less than 7 hours per 24-hour period). This is especially true in the eastern and southeastern United States. In my particular state, the lowest rates of sleep seem to fall in the poorest counties.

Most of us think that we can catch up by sleeping late on a Saturday morning here and there. If we still feel exhausted, we assume there must be a different problem. This can mean we continue to exhaust ourselves.

It can take weeks to fully recover from sleep deprivation. Adding an hour or two per night over a longer period of time will give you the most benefit and if you can sustain the extra hours, prevent the problem from recurring.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t times you just need to shut things down. If you have reached a point at which you cannot function well, it is time to take more drastic action. Pretend you have a 24 or 48-hour virus. Go to bed and don’t do anything you would put aside if you really had that virus. Giving yourself permission to do this will help quiet your mind and put it in sync with your intention of resting.

Temperature, bed quality, light, and noise can all affect sleep quality. I learned long before smartphones existed that a digital clock with a red display disturbed my sleep. I had to go back to a clock with a face with hands. Now I move the laptop out of the room because the pulsing sleep indicator is disruptive.

Alcohol will give the illusion that it helps you sleep because you may fall asleep more easily, but it can interfere with REM sleep resulting in daytime sleepiness and performance impairment. I’ve heard plenty of self-diagnosed insomniacs complain about their lack of sleep while touting alcohol use as the solution to the problem. They don’t seem to realize that they’re still complaining about insomnia. If alcohol were fixing the problem, wouldn’t that complaint be gone?

I fall asleep easily and usually sleep well, but during times of extreme stress, I require additional hours of rest. I can’t get by with 6 or 7 hours for two nights followed by 8 for two nights. I need a full 8 – 9 hours each night and maybe a nap or two on the weekend. I don’t know whether my need is more physical, mental, or emotional, but I know it’s important to shift all systems into neutral in order to feel restored.

The irony is that I most need more rest when I least feel I can afford the time. Nonetheless, I am learning to tell myself the minute I feel I have to push myself, “You may need a nap!” 

https://www.livescience.com/52592-spooky-effects-sleep-deprivation.html

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/why-lack-of-sleep-is-bad-for-your-health/

https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html

https://hbr.org/2006/10/sleep-deficit-the-performance-killer

https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-2/101-109.htm

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/wrap-it-up/