Empower, Enlighten, Equilibrate

Posts tagged ‘body-mind’

Sleeping Peacefully

images There has been a lot of research done on the sleep problems that have been plaguing many people in this country.   Chronic sleep deprivation has been shown to significantly affect one’s health, performance, safety, and financial well-being. A lack of sleep, especially the quality of sleep, can lead to many things such as increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cancer. It also affects one’s immune system, leading to increased incidences of colds and illnesses. Obesity has been linked to a lack of sleep, and when one diets while physically tired, it’s been shown that your body is burning off muscle, not the fat you want to lose.

Lack of sleep alters hormone levels associated with appetite, and affects one’s mental and emotional health. Learning and memory consolidation research shows that a good night’s sleep after learning something will help you better retain the information. Research also showed that driving while exhausted is nearly as dangerous as driving drunk.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates conservatively that each year drowsy driving is responsible for at least 100,000 automobile crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities.

Why is it so hard for us to get restful sleep? Have you noticed that as the years go by, even though you may get seven or eight hours of sleep, you still wake up exhausted? There are a variety of factors that affect our ability to get a restful night’s sleep, from light emitted from our electrical hand-held devices, to worries about work projects or deadlines. The underlying cause is stress.   Stress impacts us more than we realize and whenever there is anything unresolved mentally or emotionally, it prevents our parasympathetic nervous system from activating, which is responsible for cellular and body repair. Worries about a family member or disagreements among siblings, a parent, or a significant other impact us negatively as well.

Our mind, expectations of how life ought to be, and our need to make sure that everything will be alright creates a low grade disturbance that keeps us in sympathetic mode, which is the fight or flight response. Our bodies stay activated and remain on yellow alert even though our eyes are closed. Can you relate to times in your life, where it was hard to get relaxed and drift off to sleep, because your mind was so active? Have you ever found yourself unsettled and restless, tossing and turning in bed because of having to make a decision or deal with an uncomfortable issue? Many times we will either put all of our energies into work, or exercise excessively, to the point of exhaustion, in order for us to crash and go to sleep.

Being able to sleep peacefully starts from dealing with our daily stresses and addressing any past or current issues that bother us. Learn to acknowledge this stress and accept that by dealing with these stresses we can establish a new way to experience our lives. Make it a point to resolve any matter that creates a mental or emotional disturbance inside. The more harmonious our minds and feelings are, the more peace and ease we experience in our bodies. A settled mind will lead to a settled body.

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One simple exercise that can help prepare you for sleep is to place your hands on a part of your body that feels comfortable. Take eight to ten breaths into your hands staying focused on how your breath feels coming into your body and exiting your body.   Be really present in the moment and with your body, and slowly but surely you will find yourself starting to be more at ease and drifting off to sleep. The power of being present with your body and in the moment insures that your mind does not get trapped in the past or projecting into the future. Hence, by staying in the “Now”, present moment is one of the secrets that help you to achieve peaceful and restful sleep.

Weighing Issues

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What does being overweight represent? Or one’s inability to keep the perfect waistline or figure? For many it has become an obsession to stay in shape, but obesity is on the rise, and many things are to blame, from bad diets, fast foods, cravings, lack of self-control, and many other reasons. What are your reasons?

We can blame the frantic pace of life and not enough time to prepare a proper meal, but beyond all that, excess weight serves as a perfect strategy for a person to protect oneself. Biologically our bodies were designed to store any extra food as fat, in order for our bodies to have a reserve when we could not find food to eat. Now many of us live in a society where food is abundant and there is not a lack of food, but rather excess. So why do most diets fail, and even exercising all the time, not keep the weight off?

This is where each individual’s body has different reasons for holding onto excess weight. One reason is weight insulates us from any uncomfortable energies, emotions, or situations that we have to face on a day-to-day basis. It could be an uncomfortable work situation, a difficult relationship or family relations, and just being unhappy with our life’s circumstances. What I have seen over the past 15 years is that most people who tend to hold their weight are usually very sensitive and overly caring, many to their own detriment. Hence they use the weight as a way to protect and insulate themselves from all the emotional experiences they have encountered.

Many will cite that they lack self-control, give into the cravings, and eat their comfort foods. How many times have we been stressed and started to eat a bag of chips and in 10 minutes, voila, the bag is empty? Or the chips could be in the form of chocolates as most chocoholics can attest to. Many times we use comfort foods as a way to satisfy a part of ourselves that we feel is empty, but after we consume our comfort foods, why do we end up beating ourselves more than celebrating? I have discovered if you crave your comfort foods, to enjoy it as much as possible, and do your best to refrain from mentally berating yourself for having no control. By not judging your desire to eat comfort foods, you free yourself from guilt and can keep your mental state more balanced. One day, after starting to eat your comfort foods, you will find that is not what you really wanted and will stop.

Here’s where the example of Constance comes to mind. Constance discovered upon many years of trying different diets and cleanses, that the damn weight never stayed off and would exponentially compound over time. She viewed herself as being lazy, having an inferiority complex, and lacking self-discipline. However, as we worked together, Constance learned to trust herself and as she began to gain greater clarity of her life and what she truly “wanted,” one day she had an epiphany. It began when her husband was constantly calling her names and putting her down for being fat. Constance learned to value herself, and understood what her values were.  When her husband asked point blank, “How do you see yourself?” Constance felt something shift inside her being and stated, “I am the most beautiful woman and have the biggest heart of anyone I know.  I don’t deserve to get all this s#%t from you. I cannot change what you think of me and if you cannot see that, then you don’t know me, and I want to know why we are together.”
Constance shared further that self-acceptance is key when she looks in the mirror now. She has learned to know that inside, it’s still her. It’s up to her husband to see that. Constance had lost 35 pounds a long time ago, due to the urgings of her husband after the birth of their second child. Upon which other people, especially men began to notice her. Constance felt physically beautiful at the time and was flattered by all the extra attention. But the moment she did, her husband became extremely jealous and possessive. Since family and security was highest on Constance’s values, there was no way she would entertain any of the male suitors. However, once she began to put back on the weight, people stopped paying attention and her husband calmed down. Realizing this, Constance saw that keeping the weight wasn’t due to her being insecure, it was a strategy to keep her marriage, family, and security intact. Now Constance knows it is her choice to change this strategy if she wants and doesn’t need the weight to keep her husband or family intact.

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By reflecting and taking a look at how your extra weight is currently serving you, like Constance, you can discover the reason your body has created this strategy of keeping the extra curves. Begin by asking yourself,“ How do my love handles benefit me?” Is it the story I tell others, or more importantly, what do I get from being on the “heavy” side? Once you discover your answer, that’s the first step towards you shifting your weight from the plus to a more balanced state of being.

The Body Speaks Out Series – Surrendering Knees

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Bend Those Knees!

In the past few years, knee pains have been on the upswing. It almost seems that on average I have at least three or more people complaining of knee pains. Sometimes it is the right knee, sometimes the left and in more intense cases both. The diagnoses given by their primary care physicians or their orthopods cite “bone on bone” where the cartilage between the femur bone and the leg bone has totally withered away. However, many times arthritis is the primary diagnosis and culprit being caused by wear and tear as well as old age. I have seen over the past fourteen years of practice a direct correlation with one’s life experiences and knee pains.

One story I am going to share hopefully will provide some insight into the underlying cause of knee pain. Around five years ago, Claudia came to my office due to intense pain in both knees. She had heard about me via friends who had come in for various health concerns and she was hoping that I could help her. Let me provide some background on Claudia. Claudia was a physically active woman, who enjoyed swimming, playing volleyball, and running. However, recently the pain in her knees were increasingly getting more and more painful. There were few moments where her knee would just dislocate for no apparent reason, which would create an extreme amount of pain forcing her to the ER to get her knees reset into alignment.

During our first initial consultation I started by asking Claudia, “so what is going on in your life?”

Claudia responded, “For the most part life is fine, except that I am not sure what to do about my job. A part of me knows that it is time for me to step down and retire, but the other part of me feels that no one can replace me. I am deeply concerned that if I retire, it will leave my organization in a bad situation.”

I then inquired, “When did you first notice your knee pain getting more intense and painful?”

Claudia answered, “It has been more painful the past few months, but I would have to say around six months ago.”

Being the inquisitive being that I am, I asked, “So what was happening around six months or seven months ago when you first started to notice the increasing pain in your knees?” Claudia thought for a bit, shifted her body in the chair and then all of a sudden I could see a light of recognition in her eyes. She began by saying, “That is so weird that you asked me that. Could it be? Hmmmmmm. Okay now, around six to seven months ago, I started to contemplate about retiring. It is not that I am unhappy with my job, it’s just that I am wanting to have more freedom and dedicate my life to other endeavors. However, I feel very responsible at my position and want the perfect person to replace me, but that person hasn’t shown up.”

I followed up with, “Is it that you haven’t found someone or is it harder for you to let go a position that you have held for a long time?” Claudia paused and was just about to speak, when a big grin came across face. Claudia chuckled to herself and then spoke, ”How did you know that I have a hard time delegating and I feel like no one can do this job as good as me?” Claudia knew she had to move forward, but she was resisting the change of letting go of her position. Although she knew it was the best thing for her, where she was at in life, she just could not do it.

I just responded, “It appeared to me that you are in control most of the time and over the years I have witnessed knee pain correlates with anyone resisting to change. My favorite analogy is ‘What does one do when they are at church or they get to a certain point in life when they ask God for help?” Claudia looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Oh….I get it! At Church we usually get down on our knees and pray. Can it really be that simple?” I just smiled and said, “why don’t you try for yourself and see?”

Claudia decided to get under care and as she received her adjustments, her knees became less and less painful. However, although she had some bumps and set backs along the way, little by little Claudia came to terms with her situation and realized what she was resisting. Even when her knee dislocated again, she was able to relocate it herself without having to go to the ER. The amazing part of this story is that once she retired, Claudia’s knee pains went away, even though the diagnosis of her orthopedic surgeon was “bone on bone” with no cartilage. She did not have to go through total knee replacement surgery and was able to enjoy her life more fully and pursue her next life’s adventure.

If you can relate to knee stiffness or pain, or have a story to share about how an experience was linked to pain, please feel free to share it in the comment box below.  There is a benefit to expressing and sharing our stories!