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Spirit

A Breath of Fresh Air

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A Breath of Fresh Air

There is nothing more relaxing than a good deep breath. It is one of the most highly utilized techniques employed in any setting to assist you to calm down, relax and get focused. So why write a newsletter about your breath? I am sure you have been successfully breathing for as long as you can remember. Interestingly, however, you may be surprised to find that a large number of people don’t breath correctly and this can actually create more stress than relaxation. Justifiably most people rarely pay attention to their breath but with a slight modification you can optimize your breathing to significantly produce increased relaxation for your mind and body.

Take a second and take a good deep breath. Did you find that as you inhaled deeply your chest and shoulders lifted filling your lungs with air? This actually creates what I refer to as an “anxiety breath”. It makes sense if you think about it. When you get startled or taken by surprise you breath in the same way by inhaling a large amount of air as your chest rises.

Creating a calming breath still involves inhaling through your nose and mouth, however instead of filling your lungs by lifting your shoulders and ribcage as you breath in push out your lower abdomen with as little movement in the upper body as possible. Try practicing this by placing a hand on your stomach and as you inhale attempt to push on your hand as you fill the lower abdomen. As you exhale passively allow your belly to relax. Although it may feel awkward at first with just a few practice breaths it becomes more natural.

Breath is one of the only conscious connections between the mind and the body and can be valuable not only to relieve stress but also to calm and center you before a test, a big meeting, working on a project or to be in the moment and enjoy the day. If you have children I encourage you to share this techniques with them. We often overlook the stress they are under and teaching them techniques such as this at an early age will serve them for years to come.

Practicing proper breaths will assist you to stay calm especially in more stressful moments. When you are calm you think better and make clearer decisions. As trivial as it may sound consider evaluating your breathing and measure how effectively it is working for you. You won’t be disappointed.

With Gratitude,
Pat

Practicing Presence

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Practicing Presence

At a recent dinner party I was hosting for some friends I listened to one of my besties as she related her experience of walking on the Camino trail for 8 weeks 2 years ago. I have heard her talk about this many times but this time something she said really triggered me. She was explaining that with all the incessant input from the world with everything from cell phones, TV, movies, emails, news, employees etc. that she initially found it extremely difficult to turn off her brain and just walk. She said, “It felt almost as if she was withdrawing from a drug.” She related that at times she even found herself making up conversations in her head just to feel the stimulation.

What she realized was the thing that was uncomfortable was that all she had was the present. She was completely present to everything around her because that is all there was. Most of us spend a very small percentage of our day being completely present and you could understand how this would take some getting used to.

As I listened I found myself longing for what it would be like to totally turn my brain off and just be so totally immersed in the present. I am a regular meditator and meditation does indeed help to turn down this noise but this seemed like so much more. My current life situation isn’t conducive to a 2-month absence so I started thinking about how I could create that feeling on a smaller daily scale.

I began practicing and devoting minutes and then hours to being 100 percent present to everything I could pay attention to without external influences. After practicing a bit and getting more efficient at it I decided I would have a “practicing presence day”. I picked a beautiful sunny Sunday that was 75 sunny and a light breeze and a Sunday and it was a rare day that I just happened to have all to myself. Since it was my trial run I wanted to set myself up for success as much as I could.

It wasn’t about sitting in meditation for a day but living 100 percent in the world in presence while I moved through it. Instead of taking my dog for a walk with headphones and listening to a podcast I went technology free and focused on a much as I could take in at once to all the things going on around me. I felt the wind on my face, heard the birds, appreciated the movement in my body, heard kids squealing in the background and was filled with gratitude for my goofy, happy love muffin of a dog.

I had to run a few errands and instead of driving I got on my bike and again drank in everything around me. With my intention focused on the present I was more attentive to the people around me, had great conversations and in general was a whole lot happier. Choosing to focus on what was happening or who was in front of me made me more productive and sensitive. It was creating more space for me to live in what I call my loving supportive brain instead of my fear based limiting brain.

I found as the day went on I was feeling really relaxed and present despite getting so much done. I had thoughts and ideas about how to work differently with a client. I got clear on solutions to problems I had avoided dealing with and most of all I felt deeply connected to the people around me.

I don’t want to imply this was easy. I constantly had to reel myself in but that too got easier as the day went on. Presence is truly a muscle that needs to be developed but it is more than worth it. I encourage you to take a day or an hour or even a minute and enjoy the beauty of presence. In my experience it will be more than worth the effort.

With Gratitude,
Pat

Balance

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Balance

Aging is going to happen whether we rebel against it or not but we do have some control over aging well. Unfortunately, it is well documented that the likelihood of developing balance issues as you age is significantly high. This is because as we age we lose full balance function through a decreased or loss of sensory processing, the ability to integrate the information and issue motor commands and because we are generally weaker. Increased incidences of falls are one of those realities but with a little effort you can minimize it being your reality.

Ideally we want to begin to address these issues long before we need them however you can start at whatever level you are capable of and progress from there. Safety when performing these exercises is critical so I always insist that some one else is present especially when you first start. What we do know is that repeating specific movements will create a new neurological pattern in your brain. In addition by performing these repetitions you will strengthen the muscle utilized in balance. The more repetitive the movement the stronger the neurological connection and the easier you can access the movement.

I frequently discuss this with most of my more senior patients at some point and with a minimal amount of effort they find significant improvement and minimize the chance of injury while feeling stronger and more stable.

Consider trying the following simple exercises as recommended by the National Institute on Aging:

  1. Standing up from a seated position without pushing up with your arms. This will activate your gluteus muscles, which often don’t fire optimally as you age.
  2. Try standing in front of your kitchen counter or behind a sturdy chair. Gently place your hands out in front of you on the surface to steady yourself. Creating a slight space between your hands and the counter then lift one leg off the floor with a bent knee, look straight ahead and hold for ten seconds. Repeat with the other leg. Try to do five times each side morning and night. When you feel comfortable lift you hands up higher but keep them outstretched in case you need to catch yourself. When you are proficient try doing this with your eyes shut. (Continue to keep your hands out in front.)
  3. Placing one foot behind the heel of your front foot and perform Heel/Toe walk. (walking in a straight line) Choose a spot in front of you and keep your eyes focused on it as you take a step moving the back foot in front of the lead foot. Keep your arms out to the side to assist in your balance and repeat for twenty steps morning and evening
  4. When you have become fairly proficient with the above exercises try doing some of your regular exercises such as bicep curls or stretching on a large exercises ball. Performing exercises on the ball initiates a muscle in your abdomen called the transverse abdominus, which is a critical muscle recruited in balance.

If you are someone who likes to participate in a class experience I highly recommend Thai Chi as a safe effective gentle way to incorporate balance exercises into your life. Thai Chi can best be described as continuous flowing movement. It incorporates your whole body, is very gentle and almost anyone can participate. There are many places around town that specialize in groups specifically for the aging. Cate Morrill in Little Five Points has a company called Shoulders Down Inc., 404-525-6466 or try Jude at Decatur Healing Arts 404-378-6288.

I encourage you to try a number of these options and decided what works best for you. The sooner you begin the less likely you are to develop problems in the future so please get busy now!

I Can’t Meditate

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I Can't Meditate

As humans we are wired for mastery and generally don’t like to fail. For some, when they have tried something new and have limited success they often give up and move on to something else. Meditation frequently falls into this category.

At least every other day someone tells me, “I can’t meditate! I want to and I’ve tried but I‘m just no good at it!” What I have discovered is that there is frequently a misunderstanding of what mediation is, accompanied by a belief that the only way to meditate is to sit in an incredibly uncomfortable cross-legged position, be really quiet and still then clear your mind. Meditation is not about clearing your mind; it is about being in charge of it. It is learning how to control and manage the incessant mindless chatter that goes on all day long.

During a workshop I taught a few years ago I had a room full of people who believed they couldn’t meditate. I had to be creatively instructive to get them to recognize that they could easily meditate if they chose to so I deceived them into meditating by first discussing that as we age we loose the acuity of our hearing especially in the low and high registers. Then I asked if they wanted to try an experiment to help improve their hearing and all readily agreed.

I asked everyone in the room to raise one hand and instructed them to put their hand down only when they could no longer hear the sound I was going to make. I then struck a metal meditation bowl with a wood dowel. As the pleasant ringing sound emanated forth each participant listened with intense focus and one by one after about 1 1/2 minutes all the hands were down. I looked at my non-meditators and asked, “How was that meditation?”. The surprised looks of confusion were priceless. “Yes”, that is a form of meditation. By focusing on the sound they were controlling their mind and their ability to stay present. Try meditating yourself by listening to the hum of your refrigerator, a clock ticking or simply the breath going in and out of your lungs. As your mind wanders gently bring your focus back to the present.

Getting better at meditation just takes practice. There are many ways to meditate and I suggest you explore different methods to discover what works best for you. One thing you can count on is your mind will wander especially initially. This doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It is normal for this to occur. When you find you have drifted a little, don’t judge it. Just bring yourself back to the present and start over.

Begin with smaller amounts of time initially. Trying to meditate for a half hour or more with no experience is a sure way to defeat yourself before you even get started. Try 5-10 minutes at first then gradually increase your time. Practice anywhere you have a few minutes. Car pool lines, waiting for the coffee to brew, waiting for an appointment or waiting for friends to arrive are just a few that come to mind.

If you have a brain you can meditate. Give it a try. The benefits are numerous and controlling your mind……priceless.

Create Success in the New Year

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Success in the New Year

Millions of people all over the world will have begun their new years resolutions on new years day. Statistically most will have failed by the second week of February. Certainly all have good intentions of actually achieving their goal when they begin but we humans are funny creatures in that were not big on “have to’s”. The word resolution is a “have to” all by it self. It is a resolve, firmness and a rigid determination. Most resolutions also involve some kind of loss and as humans we are not really big on that either.

Think about it for a minute. The three biggest resolutions entertained every year are loosing weight, quitting smoking and getting organized. Loosing weight almost always involves a loss of certain favorite foods and decreased portions sizes. Quitting smoking involves having to give up ritual, nicotine and for some an old friend. Organization at first glance may not seem like a loss and despite being helpful on many levels a certain amount of freedom is given up in that to stay organized we now must conform to new organizational guidelines forcing us to give up our precious piles.

I am not advising that you don’t set intentions for your new year but I am going to give you some suggestions that just may make those goals a reality long after February. First, think about one area in your life that you may want to make a change. After all we wear a lot of hats in our life. We are son and daughters, mothers and fathers, workers, partners, spiritual beings, dreamers, physical beings any many more. Pick just one aspect of your multifaceted life to improve that will make a positive change in your life.

Secondly, try to find a way that you can develop a habit for the thing you want to change. Developing a habit will lead to a ritual enabling you to be successful in whatever goal your trying to achieve. In this way you are adding to instead of detracting from and not experiencing loss. For example a good friend of mine wanted to achieve a closer relationship with his wife. They both lead extremely busy successful lives, which often leaves not enough down time together and it was his goal to make more time for them. Prior to this intention he would get up about an hour before his wife, have coffee, read his email and skim the paper. Later she would arise get dressed and they would say their goodbyes and dive into their day.

He didn’t want to give up his “me time” and decided he would continue to get up earlier than his wife, read email and the paper but decided to make his wife a cappuccino just the way she liked it and take it to her in bed and spend time talking and drinking coffee with her before they got started with their day. The first time he did this she was surprised and slightly skeptical but very soon became attached and looked forward to their “special time” each morning. He started that habit last year and it is still going strong, as is their relationship.

Last year I wanted to find more time to write. I was one of those people who wouldn’t get started on a project unless I had a big block of time, which of course rarely happened. Then I was introduced to this technique where you attempt to do projects in 25-minute intervals then rest for five minutes and continuing with as many of the 25-minute segments as time allowed for. This resulted in much more writing time and added to instead of detracting from my day. Subsequently, I have successfully used this technique for all kinds of projects.

Last of all make your intentions a life style change and don’t try to change your whole life at once. It is said that it takes three weeks to make a habit and three months to make a life style change. If you can create passion in what you are trying to change you will develop significantly more compassion for yourself and inevitably have more success than failure. It is equally important to acknowledge each success that you have no matter how small it may seem. Each success is movement in a positive direction. For example if decreasing you weight is your intention focus on the fact that you are healthier, lighter and feeling better not the fact that you didn’t loose exactly 15 pounds by February.

No matter what you are creating in this New Year I wish you abundant success and a happy prosperous, loving new year.

Why Don’t You Sleep Well?

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Why don't You Sleep Well?Sleep is our most precious and often most over looked commodity. One question I ask my patients when doing nutritional consultations is how long and how well do you sleep? The reason for this is how well you sleep plays a significant role in how healthy and happy you are.

Statistics show that poor sleep plays a role in virtually every aspect of disease and disease related issues as well as performance. Despite the various mandates given on the amount of sleep that you need each of us has our own unique sleep requirement, which varies by age, sex, genetic and physiological factors. A good rule of thumb however is that a sufficient amount of sleep is that which allows for spontaneous awakening and leaves you with enough energy to feel refreshed and alert for the whole day.

There are many reasons why people don’t sleep well and with systematic evaluation the root cause can be uncovered and frequently resolved. Causes such as breathing problems, adrenal fatigue, drinking to much alcohol to late, shift work, worrying, hormonal changes, sleeping environment and even animals in your bed all play a role in how well you do or do not sleep.

Breathing: Sleep apnea is a condition in which you temporarily stop breathing while sleeping. It is more common than you would think and causes an individual to wake frequently through the night. Many times the individual isn’t even aware that this is occurring. More often it is the person that they sleep with who recognizes the irregularity in their breath or the fact that when they snore they sound as if they have temporarily stopped breathing. Diagnosis is relatively easy and involves doing a sleep study. If you require treatment for sleep apnea the results generally can and do make a significant difference. Aside from being more rested people report having more energy, getting sick less often and many even report weight loss.

Adrenal Fatigue: The adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of the kidneys and are responsible for multiple functions in the body but are especially helpful when responding to stress. They release what we call the “flight or fight” hormones. However, the adrenal glands do more than just release adrenaline when we get under stress. They control a whole host of other hormones. One hormone that the adrenal glands control is cortisol, which effects the sleep/wake cycle. When your cortisol rhythms are disrupted you cannot sleep well. Additionally, if you wake up between 1-3 AM your liver may be lacking the glycogen reserves needed by the body to keep blood glucose levels high enough through the night. So you literally wake up because you are hungry. This is easily remedied by eating a small high protein snack before bed such as peanut butter or cheese on a cracker.

Alcohol and Food: Many people use alcohol as their sedative to induce sleep. While it is true that alcohol may reduce the amount of time it takes to get to sleep, alcohol that is consumed close to bedtime has been shown to disrupt the second half of the sleep cycle. Eating and drinking late or too close to bedtime can cause heartburn and/or reflux, which disrupts sleep as acid backs up into the esophagus. If you have to eat late for whatever reason eat on the lighter side to avoid indigestion and disrupting your sleep patterns.

Worrying: Worrying about your relationship, money, your job and any big changes such as marriage, buying a house or starting a new job or even worrying about your sleep itself can all cause you to not sleep well. For some writing lists before the end of the day helps to organize them which let’s their brain take a rest. For others it is a matter of doing something calming such as taking a bath or meditating that redirects their mind. Some read and others watch TV. It’s helpful to remember that the old adage is still true, “Worrying never solved anything”.

Animals: Many sleep issues as well as back pains have been simply resolved by getting our beloved pets out of the bed. Don’t get me wrong I love my dog and she is the best snugger in the world, but if I ‘d let her she would have the whole king sized bed to herself before morning. Admittedly more than half of dog and cat owners sleep with their beloved pets. Whether it is dog, cat or whatever my experience is that people report they will constantly change their positions to accommodate their animals sacrificing their own comfort and disrupting their sleep.

Sleep Environment: Light in your bedroom can easily disrupt your sleep. Get rid of or cover ambient light such as alarm clocks, DVD players, cable boxes and using room darkening curtains and shades can significantly enhance your ability to sleep deeply.

According to leading sleep researchers the following are the top ten questions to ask yourself when trying to correct sleeping problems. Check out how your sleeping rates?

  1. Do you keep a regular sleep/wake cycle?
  2. Are you drinking or eating caffeine up to 6 hours before bedtime and are you mindful of your daytime consumption?
  3. Do you avoid smoking near bedtime or if you awaken in the night?
  4. Do you avoid alcohol and heavy meals later in the evening?
  5. Do you get regular exercise?
  6. Have you minimized noise, light and excessive hot or cold temperatures where you sleep?
  7. Do you go to bed at the same time each night?
  8. Can you awaken without an alarm clock?
  9. Do you sleep with animals in you bed?
  10. Do you have a successful method for dealing with excessive thoughts or worry while trying to go to sleep?

 

Best Birthday Ever

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Best Birthday EverGrowing up I had a cousin Larry who always bought presents for everybody else when it was his birthday. It wasn’t until much later in life that I fully understood what at the time seemed like really odd behavior. There is nothing quite like doing something for someone else for no reason. It always leaves people surprised and grateful and always shifts energy in a positive direction.

As I was driving to work one morning about a month ago I was thinking about my upcoming birthday, letting my mind wander with what I wanted to do. I like most of us really don’t need or want anything but I always try to do something a little special on the landmark birthdays. While I was thinking of different options my thoughts drifted to Larry and his unusual custom of giving to others when it is was his birthday. Then the thought occurred to me that it would be great if I could do 55 random acts of kindness for my birthday. It seemed totally doable and I had almost three weeks to get it done. As I started to thinking about all the fun things I could do the thought occurred to me that it would be really great if I could get 55 other people to do one act of random kindness. I thought it would be an incredible gift to all the recipients, act givers and me. So I started asking my friends, the kids, neighbors and any patient that I thought would be willing and in a day and a half had reached my goal of 55 people. Everyone was incredibly gracious and so willing that I figured why not go big. So I set my sights on getting 155 people. The requirements were simple enough. You could do your act before during or after my birthday. You could tell me or not tell me what you had done and the only requirement was that if you had agreed to do an act of kindness that you did it. Simple enough, right? Gratefully, the number ended up much larger than 155.

This was without question the best thing that I ever did. The response was incredible and the things that people did were amazing! The acts of kindness included all kinds of big and little things. Some of them were such things as:

  • A meter maid who let 55 people go who’s time had run out on the meter
  • Paying someone’s gas bill anonymously so their gas wouldn’t be turned off
  • Picking up an elderly woman’s newspaper during a downpour and putting it at her front door so it wouldn’t get wet
  • Carrying groceries into the house and putting them away for the next door neighbor on crutches
  • Giving a homeless woman 20 dollars without her asking
  • Taking baked goods anonymously to the teachers at her school with a note that read “For all the hard work you do that is never acknowledged”
  • Paying for 55 people behind him at the 400 toll booth (the toll booth attendant said she loves when that happens because it is so fun for her to deliver the news and watch the peoples faces)
  • Multiple driving kindnesses by many people
  • Paying off a ridiculously high vet bill for a pet rescue foundation
  • Giving someone a 20 dollar tip for a five dollar meal and walking out before they could thank them
  • Helping a neighbor get their sick great Dane in the car and then going with them to the vets
  • Paying for an ill friends house to be cleaned
  • So many, many, many, more to numerous to mention.

People would come and tell me that when they had done one act of kindness it felt so good that they intentionally did several more. I smile ever time I think about all of the goodness and positive shift in energy that had to occur. Some people already do regular acts of kindness but commented that the intentionality seemed to make a difference and that somehow doing this act for me for someone else made it more special for them. People called and wrote me to say that they heard what I was doing and even though I hadn’t ask them they just wanted me to know that they had participated and would then go on to tell me the things that they had done. It was magical and more than once brought me to tears. It has truly been a gift that continues to give. One person expressed that they had been so moved by the experience that they had decided to take a one hundred dollar bill out of the bank each month and give it to someone when they most needed and least expected it. I never anticipated this kind of response. It was an idea that just took off and I am so, so, grateful. This magical experience was simply without question the best birthday ever. Even though it was really all about doing kindness for others it was the best kindness I had ever done for myself. I invite you to consider doing a day or a birthday or any day of intentional acts of kindness. I believe it may shift you in ways that you haven’t yet imagined.

Forgiveness

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ForgivenessStop and think about it for a minute. Is there anyone in your life that you need to forgive? If so, holding on to it is one of the most destructive things you are doing to yourself. That’s right, to you. When we are in the position of needing to forgive it usually means, “someone has done us wrong”. For many of us, we hold on to that because it makes us right and them wrong. There is a misguided feeling of power that goes with this feeling. The problem is that we can become a slave to it and it can effect all areas of our lives without our even being consciously aware.

How many times have we held onto a grudge when the other person isn’t even aware of the fact that we are upset? They have long moved on but still we hold on to the feeling letting it churn inside. Sometimes we don’t forgive because we believe if we forgive them it will let them off the hook and it condones whatever they have done. Forgiving them does not let them off the hook; it lets us off the hook. What ever they did to you is something they have to live with. Sure it can be painful, but it is more painful to hang on to it and continue to give it life.

Many years ago, I was betrayed by someone who had “done me wrong”. In reality, she had betrayed herself more than me but being a sensitive soul, it still effected me deeply. Little by little, I started not trusting people. I wasn’t even aware that I was doing it. It became a low-grade level of pervasive stress. I began to wonder in the back of my mind if others would do what they told me they would. I had never been like that before this and I really didn’t like the feeling. I chalked it up to getting older and needing to be more mindful. Periodically, the old hurt would run through my mind begging to be set free but I held on. I was never going to let myself be fooled like that again.

Then one morning, I was laying in bed, reviewing the day and I became aware that I was worried if an upcoming event would happen as planned; I worried if the plane would be on time; I wondered if the purchase I had paid extra for early delivery would get there on time. It suddenly dawned on me how much of this stress was about trust. When did I get this way! I never remembered feeling like that before and I recognized how much irritability I was feeling in that moment. Over the next few weeks, I began to really examine this behavior, and as time went on, I was able to trace it back to the betrayal that had happened to me. I was doubting and not trusting others in my life over what this one person had done. The only person who was suffering was me. Gratefully, over time I was able to get back to trusting fully again, but it would have never happened if I hadn’t experienced the power of forgiveness.

It’s important to realize that forgiveness isn’t something that always takes place in a moment. TRY THIS instead of the previous sentence: It’s important to realize that forgiveness is something that often takes time. Sometimes it takes a while to let go of what happened. That’s not to say that it can’t happen in a moment. If it is your intention to forgive, you will, whether it takes a moment or months.

The New Year is a time again when many of us begin to set goals and begin thinking about what we want to accomplish or complete. As you set your upcoming intentions for this year, check in and ask if your need to forgive is holding you back in any area of your life. It just may be the thing that sets you free to succeed in ways you hadn’t imagined.

Put Your Self in the Equation

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Put Yourself in the Equation

Where do you put yourself in your day? Seems like a funny question to ask. After all aren’t we all by the very nature of being alive in our day? The reality is that very few of us actually take time out to dedicate some portion of the day totally for ourselves. It seems we can always find some excuse that trumps our belief that it’s possible to have time for ourselves. The kids, the kids’ schedules, the project at work, phone calls that have to be returned, groceries bought, dogs walked, dinner guests or just about any other realistic reason. There is no disputing there is an endless supply of things that demand our attention daily.

For the most part, you can be pretty sure nobody will tell you to take time for yourself. They are usually consciously or unconsciously happy to have you slave away for them. Can you imagine your child saying to you” Mom/Dad you look tired; how about I mow the lawn, make dinner etc.?” Or how about your boss saying, “You have really been working hard; how about taking some extra time at lunch or better yet take the afternoon off?” I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, just unlikely.

Recently I was talking to a woman about where she puts herself in her day and she told me it was easier to not commit to something because she always felt bad when she didn’t live up to her commitment. For her, taking time for herself meant working out regularly. To take a long run or go to the gym was a luxury that she rarely afforded herself. I asked her if she realized that it wasn’t a commitment to working out but a commitment to herself. I pointed out how committed she is to getting all her kids’ needs met, volunteering at school, working a full time high powered job and running her household. She said, “It makes me exhausted when you say it like that.” The truth is she was exhausted. When we don’t put ourselves in the equation, we get worn out and eventually it affects not only our health but our mood as well.

Balance is essential to good health and feeling alive. Making time for you is essential to that balance. It can be as simple as taking time to sit down and read the paper, take a walk, a bath, mediate or exercise. It doesn’t matter what you do, it matters that you do it and know that you are doing it for you. Take a minute and assess how well you do at putting yourself in your day. Challenge yourself for a week to put yourself in your day everyday and see what a difference it makes. I am certain that once you realize it can be done without your world falling apart you will start claiming “me” time daily. It is also worth mentioning that by taking time for yourself you are teaching the kids and those around you that it is an important thing to do as well. When you take time for yourself, you will be happier, calmer and more at ease and I can promise this goes a long way to make your world run a whole lot smoother.

Helping Your Fall Allergies

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Help with your Fall AllergiesWe are getting closer to that time of year again when ragweed and other pesky irritants water our eyes, clog our noses and make our lungs expel. Fall is just around the corner and with a few helpful hints you just may be able to reduce your symptoms.

Although there are many different types of allergic responses such as food and dust, the type of allergens I would like to focus on in this article are outdoor seasonal allergies. Allergies are diseases of the immune system that are caused by an overreaction to substances called “allergens”. Although there are endless possible offenders, in our neck of the woods ragweed and mold are primary irritants. As the leaves fall from the trees and dry mold spores are released into the atmosphere, we inhale them. When we are allergic, our bodies go into attack mode, releasing histamines, causing the typical reactions such as coughing, watery eyes, fatigue, runny nose and headaches. As the wind blows across the ragweed, it also releases ragweed into the atmosphere and it is also inhaled. This causes reactivity in our lungs and nasal mucosa. Consider a few of the following preventative options to make your fall less irritating and more enjoyable.

TAKE A SHOWER

As we go through our day ,we are exposed to significant amounts of allergens that find their way into our hair and on our skin. When we get in bed, those allergens end up on our pillow as they fall out of our hair and come off our skin. We then end up being exposed all night long even though we are safe in our bed. By simply taking a shower or rinsing before we get in bed we can significantly reduce our exposure.

BE IN TOUCH

Knowing what is blooming and what the pollen counts are help you to make good decisions about when to be outside and when to minimize your exposure. Weather.com has a section that is devoted to giving you information about what the pollen counts are in your area as well as what allergens are present. If the pollen counts are high, it’s probably not the best choice to go for a bike ride or exercise outside. Save it for a lower pollen day and minimize your exposure.

DOORS AND WINDOWS

When the weather is cool , we are so tempted to open the windows and doors and air out the house. Unfortunately, instead of airing it out, we are inviting the pollen in. The pollen settles on our furniture, clothes, and kitchen countertops, which creates multiple opportunities for ingesting or inhaling. Therefore, as tempting as it is, keep the doors and windows shut during heavy pollen seasons.

VACUUM FREQUENTLY

Although cleaning can sometimes trigger allergic reactions, with the amount of allergens that are brought in on our shoes, flow through house vents or enter when we come home, we can significantly reduce our exposure by vacuuming at least two times a week. Consider wearing a mask when vacuuming to reduce your exposure. It is also very helpful to leave your house for a little while to let whatever is floating in the air settle and reduce the amount you inhale.

WASHING YOUR HANDS

We always hear about the value of washing our hands, and when it comes to allergies, washing your hands frequently will significantly diminish your exposure to allergens when you are tempted to rub your eyes, touch your nose and yes, put your fingers in your mouth.

BACK TO SCHOOL

As the kids head back to school and into the petri dish, exposure to erasers being clapped, playing on the playground at recess and dragging their sweatshirts and sweaters around all pose a problem and increase their chance of reactivity. Helping them understand how important it is to wash their hands and face after being outside will significantly reduce their exposure and symptoms.