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5 Things You Can Do Right Now to Reduce Stress

Guys, I didn't believe it when they told me I would change from taking testosterone. I was like, "naaahhh. Those guys act all macho and angry because they think they have to."

I was wrong. So wrong.

I've always had a temper but this T shit is no joke. Lately I get set off for simple things like not being able to plug my phone charger into the wall or because my computer is running too slow. It is me or is that whirring sound killllllerrrrrrrrrr.

After years of meditating (not often enough) and learning to listen to my body, I can actually feel the temperature rising inside, like a rage tidal wave. Sometimes I let it out. Sometimes I don't. Most times, I DO laugh at how childish it seems and how much like my teenage self I've become. Again.

Hormones are powerful things, and I've heard similar tales of woe from my pregnant pals and friends experiencing menopause. The terms might be different, but the experience is certainly the same.

And if the hormone thing wasn't enough, life brings any number of stressors into our day. My mom just texted me that she woke up to a busted hot water heater and electrical wires down from a felled tree. Ouch.

Anyone will tell you that stress isn't good for our bodies. Being angry and stressed isn't our only option for whatever life throws our way.

Here are five things you can do right now to reduce stress and feel better fast:

 

1) get enough sleep. Aim for 8 hours a night, on a regular schedule. Sleep deprivation takes anything mildly annoying and ramps it up 1000%. It's hard to respond in a cool, calm and collected way when you're bleary-eyed and cognitively impaired. 

2) breathe. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. When you're feeling the pressure build, stop whatever you're doing and take 4 realllllly deep breaths. Repeat as many times as you need until the needle moves a few notches from RED ALERT.

3) meditate more. This isn't just for Buddhists or yogis, anymore. There is a ton of research out there supporting the physical, mental and emotional benefits of meditation. 5-15 minutes every day can work wonders.

4) reduce your sugar intake. Adults joke about giving kids sugar...

TMS

but rarely notice when they act exactly the same way. First comes the happy sugar high and then the moody meltdown. Don't believe me? Track your sugar intake for one week. Reduce it by half the following week and see what you notice about your mood, energy levels and response when triggered.

5) phone a friend. James Taylor's song "You've Got a Friend" isn't a huge hit by accident. People NEED pals. We really do. Next time your head feels about ready to explode, text someone on your recent calls list with this message: "I need to vent. Can you listen to me, unbiased, while I rant for a sec?" Then, set a timer for 2 minutes and let it all out. When the timer dings, you're done. Return the favor for your friend and you might get some perspective on your current situation. Maybe it wasn't as bad as you thought...

 

 

 

Got a quick tip that folks can do anytime, anywhere to reduce stress levels?

Feel free to share in the comments below. ;-)

 

Self-Care When Tragedy Strikes

Yesterday was a very sad, shocking day. I had just biked over to mail my taxes and I saw a post from someone on facebook: "please post if you know what happened in Boston".

 

Somewhere, in that weird place in me that knows things, I felt it. One word: bomb.

I made a comment: "in regards to what?"

The comments started flowing, "explosion..." and words like that. My newsfeed suddenly filled with status updates. And I spent the next 30 minutes glued to my computer, updating myself and others via Twitter and Facebook. I thanked my spiritual practice for the mindfulness it brought me, my ability to stay present and post information and retrieve it from my friends all around the city.

I live about 7.5 miles away from where the explosion happened. I was nursing my first headcold since October and was too sick to go to the marathon, so I was watching the updates from home.

I thought about my good friend had just told me that morning how he was injured and wasn't able to run but he'd be ready next year. I texted him, "explosions Downtown. I'm glad you're not there today."

I thought about my client; two years ago she started with a Couch-to-5K and ended up doing the marathon once and came back for a second time this year. Running to raise money for a family member who had passed away.

I thought about my friend who had just posted a video on facebook from the sidewalk. I knew she was there. I txted her immediately. When she replied she was safe I instantly wrote: "I love you." She wrote it back, even though we've never been that intimate. But that moment called for it.

I spent the next 3 hours texting people I knew and saying I love you when they said they were safe. People wrote it back when they checked in with me. Thinking that people would be fleeing from the city, I offered up my living room and apartment to runners or anyone who wanted some respite.

The whole time I thought how I was really surprised someone didn't hit us sooner. There's been so much violence and madness lately. Now it was our turn. On Patriots Days, of all days--a holiday this city celebrates each year. "A silly, made-up holiday" as the guy behind the post office counter had said, just minutes before the explosion.

A silly made-up holiday in a city I've adopted as home for almost 7 years. It's my home. And someone just hurt my family here.

I wasn't downtown but I still felt the impact and emotional frenzy as my friends and I texted each other, frantically.

As reports kept coming in about an explosion or fire near Harvard, just a few miles away from my apartment, I felt helpless. I was afraid.  Would it keep happening? Would there be more?

 

 

When tragedy strikes, we need to tend to ourselves as best we can.

CONNECTION

As the news unfolded via social media, I reached out to every person I knew, either texting them or checking their fb wall for an update. I expressed pure love for each person--there was a connection happening over the airwaves that astounded me. We are forever changed. I held nothing back and experienced that same intimacy with others--it was a wonderful experience. I posted that our home was available to anyone needing a place to stay and one dear friend came over. We spent the night both grieving and laughing, celebrating our full, rich lives and our gratitude for one another. Texts came through all night and I was comforted by the connections with friends both near and far.

NUTRITION

Despite feeling queasy with emotion and shock, everyone I loved and knew was ok. I sent loving compassion to those less fortunate who would spend hours in waiting rooms, ERs, hotel rooms, apartments and on the sidewalks of the city as they struggled through a difficult night. There was no reason to not feed myself. Due to massive changes in our lifestyle habits, there is food in the fridge every day of the week now. I felt more gratitude, to have what I need to keep myself healthy and well.

SLEEP

When bedtime came, I hit the sack. I had seen all the footage enough times. I had made sure all my beloved friends and colleagues were ok. I needed to rest. I headed to bed with the knowledge that I had done all I could to help. I had posted information and offered my home to those who may need it. With that peace of mind, I was able to turn off the computer and take care of myself so I could help again in the morning.

COMFORT

New sheets on the bed were a huge help for what could have been a sleepless night. Around 3am I woke up with a huge pain in my stomach. Grief, certainly. Emotion I had quelled when I was responding in the moment. Now, it was surfacing. I got up and filled my hot water bottle with very hot water and placed it over my stomach. I felt instant relief and I was back asleep within minutes. There may also have been a stuffed animal or two beside me.

 

I am so humbled and grateful for the many friends and colleagues near and far who checked in on me, as I had tried to do when similar events unfolded in their towns and cities. As I'm sure you're noticing, we are experiencing a massive shift in mass violence and natural tragedies in recent years and I don't know why it's happening, but in the midst of the suffering, I am finding comfort in the connections that happen as a result.

 

I find comfort in knowing that these things happen, despite our wanting them to.

I find comfort in connecting with people and expressing my love and concern for them.

I find comfort in remembering that grief is temporary, and part of being human.

I find comfort in knowing our city can and will rally together to support each other, just as others have done before us.

 

We're Boston. If we can overcome those damn Redcoats, we got this one.

 

 

Can't Cook? Don't Eat Crap.

As part of my recovery process from my surgery on August 7th, I haven't been able to cook for myself for almost a month now. Except for a fried egg, here and there.

As someone who does enjoy cooking, less than some but more than others, it's been hard on me. I haven't been able to decide what I want to eat, how I want it to taste and what I can and can't grab when I'm suddenly starving (apparently testosterone makes me act like the Hulk when I get hungry):

 +   HUNGER     =

So, what's a health coach to do?

Well, I applied what I knew and made the best of it. Just like I tell all my clients.

Most mornings, I had instant oatmeal and added nuts, seeds, butter, nut butter, honey, maple syrup, raisins--any or most of those. Lunch was tasty leftovers from friends or whatever Brenda had made.

Dinner was more of the same from lunch.

I can't exercise, so everything I'm eating isn't being worked off, the way that the body likes to utilize energy/food. So, as I'm trying to make good decisions with the food I'm being offered and what little I'm able to make, I'm also trying to consider what my body needs to heal well AND the pounds I'm adding since I can't exercise.

Yeah. Or as that swimmer guy from the Olympics would say, "JEAH!"

My physical limitations created a need to ask for help--and an even greater awareness of what I wanted to consume, how, when, where and why. 

Here's my biggest secret: Don't Eat Crap. 

I felt like celebrating. I totally did! But I also felt like I needed to eliminate the massive build-up of toxins (anethesia and Rx drugs for pain) and the monotonous diet of simple carbs I had while recovering that first week. Eating crap food wasn't going to help me celebrate this milestone in my life.

Here's what I did to cleanse and restore following surgery (good advice for anyone, anytime):

1) prioritized veggies as much as possible: thanks to my pals who made delicious, veggie-based dinners for me to eat. WOW! They helped so much. I also ate chopped-up carrots, broccoli and cucumbers on a daily basis for snacks.

2) water: we bought huge containers of water with the little spigot on the bottom because I couldn't raise a glass to fill it at the sink. I felt like an animal making hourly migrations to the watering hole...

3) reduced sugar and wheat: both major causes of inflammation, I reduced or limited how I consumed these in the weeks following my surgery. It gave me the room I needed for better food AND helped aid all my tissues in speedier healing.

4) read, wrote, slept and welcomed visitors: since I was busy doing these things, I wasn't walking around the house eating from boredom.

5) ask for help: when I felt hungry, I asked for help reaching for things. When I needed meat, I asked for it. When I needed veggies, I asked for them. Water. Some ice cream.

This recovery process and my experience with cooking for myself is just another example of how everything in our lives happens for a reason and we can use every experience to learn and grow from it.