Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spontaneity - Schedule Some Now

“If you wait to do everything until you're sure it's right, 
you'll probably never do  much of anything.”   ~ Win Borden

Recently my life became all about my schedule.  Any blank spot on my iCal existed only to be filled - with work, dinner, a movie, a haircut, an appointment at the Apple Store to learn how to better use my iCal. I reveled in the idea that by organizing my time with rules and schedules, I was making myself more productive. My system was ingenious - it even had a color code for Happy Health Terrie Time, during which I was supposed to relax before moving on to the next scheduled item.

My system seemed to be working - until I noticed how often I was saying, “I’m so busy.”   Talking with people who weren’t on the schedule seemed overwhelming, so I stopped answering the phone and began to ignore emails. I grew so tired that workouts began to drop off my schedule - which I justified by telling myself that if I didn’t have a session with my trainer exercising wasn’t actually on the calendar anyway.

Then I began to hear a little voice in my head, offering the same gentle reminder I so often give to my clients. “Listen to your body.  What is it telling you?” As soon as I tuned in, it was obvious that I had been ignoring a message for quite some time. My mounting fatigue was practically an SOS call from my distressed body, whose demands I had pushed aside whenever they didn’t fit into my schedule. 

I started blocking off whole days - color coded of course - with the word Nothing. The beauty of the Days of Nothing was that they left me the freedom to choose what I wanted to do, right in that moment. I would relax if I wanted to relax, work if I wanted to work, go to the movies if that was what struck my fancy. Most importantly, I would be doing what I had decided to do right then, not a week or even an hour before. What I needed was spontaneity.

Interestingly enough, rather than leaving me with more work piled up, the Days of Nothing increased my productivity. Having removed the idea that I should be doing any particular thing - cleaning or visiting family or balancing my check book - I was filled with the energy of choice and freedom.  My fatigue lifted.

I found that even on the Days of Nothing I would often choose to complete some task I had been putting off, rendering spontaneous what had previously felt like a chore. Knowing the benefit that spontaneity provides, I now constantly look for opportunities to choose what’s important in the moment. As a result, I find that I am more relaxed, energetic, and enthusiastic, no matter what I am doing.  

Sometimes we can be so conscientious about doing what we think is good for us that we move too far in one direction, over-scheduling ourselves to the point that we leave no time or space for our bodies to tell us what we ought to be doing. Here are a few small ways to release your grip on rules and routines and allow your body’s expressed needs to be your guide.

Your Sleep Patterns
I recently posted an article on my facebook page which discusses some new ideas about sleep patterns. It turns out that eight hours in a row may not really be how the body wants to rest, at least not everyone’s body.  How many times have you found yourself up in the middle of the night, worried more about the fact that you aren’t asleep than about anything else in particular? My belief is if you are tired, you will sleep.  If you don’t feel tired, then be awake.  If you weren’t busy being worried about being up in the middle of the night, and trying to sleep, what else could you do?  There may be a rhythm that works better for you.

How Much Water You Drink
It’s practically ‘law’ to drink 8 glasses of water a day.  Why?  How can everyone possibly require the same daily intake of liquids?  Personally, I think it’s pretty hard on your kidneys to drink that much every day.  Try drinking just when you are thirsty.  If you are active, or if you are outside on a hot day, you will naturally want to drink more.  Your body knows what to do.  It knows how much water you need moment by moment.

How You Exercise
Do you repeat the same workout every time you go to the gym, regardless of how you are feeling that day? Check to see if your body is calling for something.  Is it begging to be stretched out on your heavy lifting day?  Maybe you are feeling particularly strong and would like to reschedule cardio in favor of weights. Or perhaps you are about to get sick, and a nap would serve you far better than a workout.

All I’m suggesting is, listen!  Rules are great, and they should serve you, not oppress you. Stick to the schedule most of the time, but make sure you build in the opportunity to ask, “What do I want to do today?” and the time to act on the answer. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Self Care - What's That?

There’s an old joke that goes like this:

A woman prays every day to win the lottery.  Day after day, she prays, “God please let me win the lottery”.  Finally, one day, god calls down to the woman and says, “Lady, can you help me out and buy a ticket?”

As someone people come to for care, I ask, can you help me out?

Many of my clients come to me because they are in physical or emotional pain.  Very often I can help, but help is the key word.  I really can’t do it all.  Your life is your responsibility, and caring for yourself is vital if you want to be well. A wonderful team that you trust to give advice and care can help to keep you healthy.  But ultimately you must be in charge of your own health, which may require making changes in your life. If you need rest, you have to be the one who sleeps more.  If you need more enjoyment, you are the one who must take the time to have more fun.  

If you are not taking good care of yourself, there will be a limit to how much anyone else can do for you - whether your surgeon, your therapist, or your chiropractor.

Recently a woman who had been in pain for quite some time contacted me seeking care. I asked her, “What have you done in response to your pain?”  She began rattling off a list of practitioners she had seen - chiropractor, acupuncturist, shiatsu masseuse, medical intuitive, and several others.  I asked her what she herself had done, what changes she had made to her daily life, and she looked at me with confusion, not understanding what I meant. I went on: what kind of self-care did she do?  Did she rest? Did she meditate? Did she apply heat to the pain? Did she take a bath? Did she finally have a difficult conversation she had been putting off for years? Had she taken the time to consider the possible root cause of the pain? She didn’t have an answer.

Pain is your body’s way of letting you know that something is amiss.  Experiencing pain means that - whether on the physical, emotional, mental or spiritual level - something in your life needs to be addressed. When you feel pain, your body is saying, “Hey! Wake up!! I need something!” To figure out what that something is, you must learn to look inward. One of the best ways I have found to do that is through self-care.

Here are a few easy ways to start practicing self-care.

·   Try taking daily bath, in hot, sudsy water.  
·   A nap can be a great way to recharge. Rather than reaching for another cup of coffee, give yourself permission to take a short nap during the day.
·   Meditation is a great way to slow down and reconnect with yourself. Here are a few simple meditations to get you started:
1.        Conduct a three-minute body scan upon waking.  
2.        Practice early morning gratitude meditation.  Upon waking, notice 5 things you are grateful for right in this moment.  You can even write them down.
3.        Try a five-minute seated meditation in which you quietly notice your thoughts and practice letting them go. Over time, increase the length of the meditation.
4.        Yoga is a moving meditation, whether you do it at home or in a class.

You may be in need of some physical activity to get you back in to your body. If you feel heavy or lethargic, or if your thoughts seem cloudy, consider trying the following:
·   Head outside and take a brisk walk.
·   Go for a bike ride around your neighborhood.
·   Take a dance class, or turn on music that makes you feel like moving, and just dance around the house by yourself.

Nature is very healing.  Even if you live in an urban place without much greenery, spending time in nature can be as simple as going to a park, or even leaning against a tree while waiting for the bus. If you live in the suburbs, find opportunities to get out of the car or the house. Walk on the grass in your bare feet. Plant a garden, large or small.

·   Pick up a craft project you have been meaning to finish or wanting to start.
·   Learning a new skill, especially one that allows you to express your creative side, can be transformative. Try knitting or sewing, taking a pottery class, or learning a new language.
·   Or buy a can of paint and take a brush to that beige wall you’ve always thought would look great in canary yellow.
·   Cleaning, organizing, re-arranging furniture - all of these transformations of the space around you are creative acts that can bring freshness and ease into your life.  

Take the time to eat healthily. If that feels too daunting, start with a few healthy changes in your diet. The act of cooking, whether for yourself or someone else, is an opportunity to slow down and savor the delight of creating great food.

You get the idea.  When you are in distress, take good care of yourself.   As a health care provider I am on your team, and you are the team leader.