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!

Travel Tip #16 – Be Kind

viewWhen you travel, it´s important to be kind to yourself. It´s not a bad idea to be kind to everyone you meet either, but why not start with yourself? I´ve been traveling for the past 6 days. Every moment has been packed full of something.

Yesterday evening I could have jumped in the pool, walked on the beach, or gone out for dinner. It was the first time in days that I had nothing scheduled and all of those sounded appealing. Instead, I ate chicken salad and edamame in my room, put on my pj’s and fell asleep watching the Olympics. I was worn out.

When I travel, I feel like I should pack in as many local sites as I can – after all, I´m there and who knows whether I´ll be back. This is not everyone´s approach I was reminded at dinner Saturday night when a portion of our group described their afternoon as primarily consisting of a nap. While they were sleeping, we had toured the courthouse tower, the art museum, and a dedicated gluten-free bakery.

I have also observed several of our group wincing in pain, wilting from thirst, and too hungry to decide on a restaurant. How can you avoid these traveling pitfalls? Be kind to yourself. How?

palm-Wear comfortable shoes.
-Pack light when laundry facilities are available.
-Pack a day tote in your suitcase to use for snacks, a change of shoes, a jacket, etc.
-Drink plenty of water and always have a bottle with you.
-Time meals and snacks with your home time zone in mind.
-Give yourself time to ease into the day.
-Carry food on day trips and when you fly.
-Wear sunglasses.
-Take naps.
-Be willing to say no when you´re tired.
-Map locations in advance to avoid annoyance when the GPS is slow.
-Take your time and enjoy what you´re doing.

Just a little kindness goes a long way toward enjoying a vacation to the fullest whether you relax or pack in as much as possible.

Travel Tip #3 – Gently Prepare Your Host in Advance

When traveling to see friends or relatives with whom you only occasionally visit, prepare them in advance for your gluten-free way of living. It is best not to assume that they will remember your eating plan just because you told them last time they saw you…and the time before…and the time before.

If your loved ones do not remember that you are gluten-free, please try not to take it as a slight or an insult. A failure to focus on this detail of your life does not automatically mean they don’t care about you. It just means that your dietary concerns are not one of the things they must remember in order to navigate everyday life so it is natural to forget over time. When you think about it, they probably don’t remember your shoe size, your favorite book of all time, your junior high boyfriend’s name, the color of your first car, or the Pythagorean theorem either. Before you are tempted to add that as fuel to a they-don’t-care-about-me fire, take a moment to note that you probably don’t remember that Aunt Sue had gout when she was 50, or Uncle Bill drinks a coke at exactly 10 am every morning, or that your cousin Carol hates to eat any sort of fish prepared in any sort of manner. You know this doesn’t mean you don’t care about them. This kind of forgetting is natural.

Your announcement or reminder of your gluten-free status can be part of the natural flow of trip planning. As you discuss logistics for airport pick-ups, sleeping arrangements, theatre tickets, amusement park visits, and the like, include a simple statement in an email that says: By the way, I have to follow a gluten-free eating plan. That means I won’t be able to consume any food that contains wheat, rye, barley, malt, or oats.  Once we arrive, I can make a quick trip to the store to pick up a few items that will fit in with the menu you already have planned. Also, don’t worry, I can usually find a suitable choice at any restaurant we visit. In the rare instance this is not the case, I always have a backup plan so it won’t be an issue. I just want you to know in advance why I’m skipping the pancakes at breakfast. I’m so looking forward to having this time together.

If your host then expresses an interest in learning more, use the opportunity to give him/her the specifics needed to make the trip go smoothly. Let kindness and consideration be your guide as you determine the easiest way to maintain compliance while allowing the host to feel good about accommodating you. Make simplicity a priority so that extra work is kept to a minimum. This can be a delicate dance. Remember to express your gratitude for each special accommodation along the way.

Sometimes you may be met with resistance. That does not mean you’re doing anything wrong, so do not let this deter you from following your plan. In this instance, do not expect or push for accommodation. Take the initiative to purchase and prepare items that meet your needs. If there is a notoriously difficult personality involved, you may need to leave the premises, eat compliant food, and then return to snack on a salad or some vegetables at mealtime. Nothing can be gained in a tug-of-war over whether your gluten-free regimen is necessary. You do not need to change this person’s mind. All you need to do is remain compliant with your plan and take care of yourself.

When traveling a relatively short distance by car, you may want to pack a basket full of gluten-free treats to share. Including others in your world allows them to feel more kinship with you and can serve to lessen their fear of embracing a different way of eating.

Preparing your host in advance communicates that you value them as an ally in your quest to be healthy. It shows respect by giving them time to adjust shopping lists and meal plans if they so choose, and it establishes in advance that you will be politely refusing to eat a piece of cake, no matter how moist, chocolaty, and deliciously homemade it may be.