Pinch Me. I Must Be Dreaming.

Pinch me. I must be dreaming. I’m seeing too many things that make so little sense they don’t seem real. A dream state could explain this and ease the distress I feel from being surrounded by cognitive dissonance.

But I know I’m awake. I know the contradictions that have dominated pandemic news will continue to be paraded before me in my newsfeed, on TV, and on Twitter. If I’m going to stay abreast of current news, I have to tolerate what feels delusional.

I believe thriving and making good health decisions require staying abreast of current research, virus spread, government policies, and community activity. Doing so demands tolerance, fortitude, humor, and the ability to shift as things change. It isn’t easy, but to me, it’s worth it.

If you feel a need to stay informed, but worry that you’re not up to the task here are some tips to keep you feeling balanced:

Adopt a learning perspective.
When someone else’s point-of-view annoys you or sends you down a dark path, get curious. What motivates that person? What do they gain from taking a particular position? Are their values aligned with yours? If not, what values do you see demonstrated in their actions? Are they just taking a different path to reach the same conclusion you reach?

Sometimes things that look opposite on the surface are not. Further investigation can be revealing. Beginning with curiosity rather than assumptions or knee-jerk reactions can enrich your understanding.

Not to be forgotten, knowledge is power. While it may be a cliché, it’s also a good reminder that learning will give you more leverage than simply reacting.

Reject attempts from others to define your priorities.
You can set your own priorities and stick with them. These may go against the grain. That’s okay. In retrospect, conventional wisdom is often wrong. You may just be ahead of your time.

Feel free to hear a message while rejecting shame.
None of us are perfect. We make mistakes that can’t be taken back. Sometimes we see our errors reflected in the mistakes of others. Sometimes we need the opportunity to view our errors so we can correct them.

Once we recognize our mistakes, express remorse, learn and do better, there’s simply no reason to feel ashamed or punish ourselves. Period. It does not matter how other people respond.

If I would grant someone else grace and forgiveness for the same offense. I can forgive myself.

Have confidence in your perceptions.
You don’t have to believe incorrect information. Just because something is often repeated doesn’t make it true. Trusting your perceptions will allow you to keep an open mind and see past deception.

When you live or work in a dysfunctional system, there can be immense pressure to conform to distorted ways of viewing things. You may believe you’re alone in seeing things differently. Even if you are, that doesn’t make you wrong. Reread The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Choose your battles or choose no battles.
You don’t have to fight. Some of my friends and family are now ignoring the news because they feel they have to fight every single piece of misinformation and that looms so large they give up before they get started. You can stay informed without fighting. It’s a choice.

Doing something of value is centering. It doesn’t have to be large to be significant. Sew masks. Send encouraging texts. Mow an elderly neighbor’s lawn. Organize a driving celebration. Call a friend who lives alone. Create an online social experience. Raise money. Design and assemble goody bags for your neighbors.

You can create an experience each day that puts you in the position to be at your best and show it off. The result will boost your spirits and resilience.

Allow yourself to be strong.
If you always avoid the difficult, you’ll never know how strong you are. You may need that strength to get you through an unavoidable illness or natural disaster down the road. Most of us have internal resources we have not tapped. Now is a good time to get familiar with them.

Of course, you can use all of these tips and still feel crazy right now. Rest assured, there are other people who see things like you do. You haven’t lost your mind. Things are swiftly changing and uncertain. It’s unsettling.

I often feel like I’m living in two realities at the same time. I don’t enjoy that, but I know I’m okay and I will be okay. It’s the circumstances in which I find myself that have changed. And boy, have they changed! Pinch me. I must be dreaming!

Yoga is a Perfect Home Workout

namasteIf the gym isn’t your cup of tea, yoga is a perfect home workout. We’re all aware that regular exercise is important to overall health so it’s important to find a workout that works for you. A couple of years ago, I was swimming laps 3 – 4 times a week. Swimming is a great low-impact workout which I needed because of a knee injury. Then came the day that I jumped into the pool to get started, landed on that leg, and re-injured my knee. On top of the damage the chlorine was doing to my hair and the constant lane sharing, I’d had enough. I needed a new workout routine.

At my age, I’m aware it’s important to have some sort of resistance training as well as with aerobic exercise. I began searching for a good mix of the two. After months of experimentation, I now have two weight lifting routines and three or four yoga routines I rotate on a regular basis. I chose these workouts because I can do them at home and because they make me feel good. If your workout makes you feel good, obviously, you’re less likely to skip it. I now work out 5 – 6 days per week.

About 4 years ago, I attended a yoga class for seniors once a week for a few months. At that point, I didn’t even own a yoga mat. I just went to the class, threw $5 in a basket and borrowed a mat. I felt weak and shaky sometimes, but the routine wasn’t all that difficult and I enjoyed it when the instructor rubbed our foreheads during Savasana at the end. I wasn’t really hooked, but this low-key introduction helped me get past the fear that I wouldn’t be able to do the poses.

When I decided to seriously explore yoga as a primary workout, I started with two DVDs featuring Bethenny Frankel. I jumped right into the 40 minute session instructed by Kristin McGee. Occasionally, I’d switch over to the DVD led by Mike McArdle. As I became more proficient with the routines, I also became more aware of the pace and the tone of each workout. I noticed that I preferred Mike’s instruction. I also got curious about other instructors. Once I realized how many yoga options were available on Amazon Video, I was like a kid in a candy store.

There are almost 3000 yoga videos available from Amazon Video. Almost 400 of those are included free with Amazon Prime and you can watch them as many times as you want. Even if you watched nothing on Amazon Prime, but a single workout, that workout ends up costing you about 25¢ per year. I don’t know of any club you can join for 25¢ per year.

The only equipment required for these yoga routines is comfortable clothing, a yoga mat, and a way to access video. A blanket, block, or strap is sometimes helpful as well. It’s not hard to find a yoga mat for under $20 or a beginner’s kit with a mat, block, and strap for $35 – $40. And if you’re not leaving the house, there’s no clothing or gas budget required. You’re bound to have something comfortable to wear stuffed away in a drawer.

I’ve previewed quite a number of yoga workouts. If I don’t immediately feel both relaxed and challenged, I move on to a different option. I prefer those that move at a slower pace with an instructor who fully demonstrates proper alignment and form. My current favorite is, Yoga for Beginners: Poses for Freedom and Renewal with Kanta Barrios which I can watch free with Amazon Prime. It’s 30 minutes designed to tone the muscles and strengthen the core. Full of plank to Chaturanga to cobra to downward-facing dog sequences, the poses may be for beginners, but I don’t feel like I’m slacking. In fact, the reviews of this video sometimes complain that it’s too hard for beginners.

When I want a longer workout, I choose Yoga for All. Also available free with Amazon Prime, these sessions are each about an hour in length and feature 3 instructors simultaneously demonstrating beginner, intermediate, and advanced versions of each pose. Season 1 contains 4 episodes: Basic, Core, Strength, and Vinyasa. I follow the intermediate instructor and modify to the beginner level when working on an area in which I’m weak.

Obviously, your preferences may differ from mine, but with so many choices you’re bound to find something that will suit your personality, goals, and fitness level. And if your preferences change as you become stronger and more flexible, video content providers offer a never ending stream of prospective selections.

Once you land on a possible workout, be sure to watch the whole session before practicing it. This will get you attuned to the rhythm and manner in which you’ll be instructed. While you still may be a bit behind the instructor at first, a full viewing reduces frustration and allows you to more fully concentrate on form from the beginning.

Yoga makes it easy to target any part of your body that needs improvement. Have back problems – there’s a yoga workout for that. Need to relax your hips – there’s a yoga workout for that. Have digestive trouble – there’s a yoga workout to improve it. And no matter where you practice, yoga can help you gain strength, flexibility, and balance.

If you wake up stiff and sore; if you have plantar fasciitis pain; if you are losing flexibility; if you want to improve balance or breath control, yoga is a great workout to explore. You can workout when you want. Target any part of your body. Gain strength, tone, flexibility, balance, and breath control. Avoid prying eyes. Learn to be mindful. Save money. Feel amazing.

All of this is possible when you practice at home. Yoga really is the perfect home workout.

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.”

My Efficiency is Killing Me otherwise known as The Importance of Balance

My efficiency is killing me!

Huh? That’s a weird thought. Why did I have it, and what does it mean?

Doesn’t efficiency mean that I’m making the most progress in the least amount of time and with the least amount of effort? How can that be bad, much less deadly? Why do I keep feeling like it’s working against my long-term health?

Running two businesses and a household means my To Do list is long…always. I find that if I throw in a load of laundry and turn on the iron in the morning when I’m in the laundry room grabbing a towel for my shower, then I have saved myself two trips back to the laundry room. If I go to the post office before I go to my office, then I can get my bank deposit ready before a meeting that’s close to the bank. I’ve used less time, less gas, and done less driving. There’s no inherent problem with any of this. It allows me to move down the list quickly and be responsive to my customers. And, of course, the general premise is that I will be able to finish tasks quicker leaving more time for the fun, relaxation, and connection that improve my quality of life. But is that what’s really happening? Let’s take a look:

The problem comes when I finally recognize that I opted to finish 3 more emails, 4 purchase orders, and two more phone calls before I stopped for lunch, my lip is numb, my arm tingly, and I can’t think straight because my blood sugar has fallen. Other times, my bladder hurts because I’ve efficiently arranged my errands, but waited too long before trying to find a bathroom. My focus on being efficient in the moment is sometimes counterbalanced by my ineffectiveness later. It takes hours to fully recover from a severe sugar drop making everything I attempt in the meantime take longer and be more prone to error.

The focus that keeps my mind crunching on a computer problem until it’s solved or holds a task list in my head that’s more accurate than my written list also causes me to ignore my body’s signals. When I lead with my mind, my body and spirit often get out of balance. When I cannot clearly absorb the communication from my body and spirit, it becomes easier to make choices that are detrimental to my physical or emotional health. Even when I’m exhausted, I’ll may work late rather than take time to connect with a loved one. I’ll eat a carb heavy dinner like GF pizza or cereal and milk because it’s fast even though I know that I’ll have a headache and feel groggy the next morning…and all because I’m choosing to be efficient.

Family time

We face pressures in this fast-paced, accomplishment-focused culture that often pull us out of balance. We are then trained to believe that we can engage our intellect to conquer the resulting problems. Of course, these problems will not respond to intellectual cures. So we become more efficient, try harder, accomplish more and wonder why we don’t feel better.

Perhaps rather than suffer the detrimental effects of being efficient, I can focus more on just being…being present in the moment in body, mind, AND spirit. I know that it’s in this quiet balance that I find peace, strength, and healing. I know that it’s in such a state of being that thriving begins. Sounds like it should be as easy as relaxing, but it’s not easy for me. How about for you?



Image from contributor Ambro