Emotions and Health

In my book, From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop Doing Life and Start Living It, I share how I found relief to chronic physical issues, by uncovering and rectifying mental and emotional issues. In my early 30’s, I experienced various physical issues from constant pain and tension to low immune functions and digestion issues. I thought I had some undiagnosable illness. What I discovered was the root of the illness did not occur in my body, but in my mind. It was my being in the wrong profession with the wrong goals for life that were the triggers for the physical symptoms I experienced.

During this time, I learned about Louise Hay who wrote the book, You Can Heal Your Life. I found this book to be eye-opening and the companion book, Heal Your Body A-Z, to be a go-to resource. Ms. Hay’s premise is that “What we think about ourselves becomes the truth for us. I believe that everyone, myself included, is responsible for everything in our lives, the best and the worst. Every thought we think is creating our future. Each one of us creates our experiences by our thoughts and our feelings. The thoughts we think and the words we speak create our experiences.” Two notes here.

First, I do not share this to blame or shame you into thinking you are responsible for all the bad in your life. I like to look at the other side of the equation. You have the power to create what you want in your life. If you find that things are not as you desire, make a change in your thinking and your actions to encourage a better result.

Second, the only thing I believe in 100% is that I don’t believe in anything 100%. I have studied and used Ms. Hay’s work for long enough to see a correlation in what she has found and the reality that I see with myself, my family, my friends, and my clients. And that does not mean that everything is the direct result of our thoughts. It may be, but at this point I see a correlation not necessarily a tried and true law. Even so, I see enough correlation in the mind-body connection to give it credit and use it in my own life.

Photo by Luke Braswell on Unsplash

A few years back, after many years of good health, I found myself having issues again. Being human, I first looked to my diet, movement, and age to see if any were at fault. Although probable influencers, I could not see a direct reason for why I felt like I did. Next step, I looked at my life. At the time, I was in a situation which was not positive. I believe we always have three choices when we are in difficult situations: A) We can try to change the situation. B) We can accept the situation. C) We can leave. In this circumstance, I had to choose option B as I had no power to change the situation and at the time, no ability to leave. The result was my poor health.

According to Louise Hay, my physical symptoms related to fear, anger and frustration – which very well described my reaction to the situation. I chose to use the affirmations recommended in the Hay books, take care of my mind, emotions, and body – focusing on them instead of the frustrating situation, and make strategic plans to leave the situation sooner than later. My physical symptoms lessoned under this plan and were removed completely after I was out of the situation.

Have you ever noticed a correlation between your emotions and your body? Have you tried shifting your mindset to resolve physical pain? Share with us here.

two door Honda

Accept Yourself

The car I drive in Mexico, is not built for Mexico. I manage ok, but there are certain things I can not do. I can not take the short-cut dirt roads because they may not be smooth enough for my little two-door Honda. I need to take topes – oversized speedbumps – at an angle or I hear the scrape across my undercarriage. Down most roads I look like I am playing the old video game “Frogger” as I move right and left to avoid potholes. I can drive down here, but I just do it very differently than the people flying past me in their 4×4 SUVs which are meant for off-road driving.

two door HondaOur bodies are like our cars. They are our means of moving in the world, yet we need to also accept that not all bodies are built the same. Like our cars, we need to accept what our body can do, we need to adapt in situations that are not ideal for our bodies, and we need to uncover and accept the superpower our unique body was built for.

Accept Yourself

This past year I have written a lot about my battle with yoga. I tried to be something I wasn’t. I pushed my body to do things my body was not made for. I put myself down because I thought I should be able to do what the instructor 30-years my junior could do. This unacceptance of my body began as I grew up in the 1970’s when tall thin models like Twiggy were the ideal – and very different from my Rubenesque shape. I often felt “wrong” and “bad” because I did not fit someone else’s definition of ideal or beautiful.

My body is not imperfect. It is like saying my little Honda is a horrible car. It is not!  It is the most awesome car in the world, in my mind. I accept and love my car very much, even though it is not ideal for the driving conditions in my area. I need to accept and love my body, even though it is not meant for high impact yoga and I can not slam dunk a basketball. My body is mine and is perfect for me.

I love this article about the “imperfect” yoga teacher and how she accepts her body and what it can do. My guess is that she empowers her students of varying shapes and sizes maximize what their body can do and love the shape they are in.

Accept your body as it is. Don’t try to be someone else’s ideal. If you decide to improve your body, make sure it is based on your goals and capabilities, and that you are not making changes to try to match someone else’s definition of “perfect.”

Adapt

Due to the road situation where I live, I have to adapt how I drive my car. I can not take the dirt road shortcut, and I have to slow down for potholes and topes. Same goes for our bodies. There may be things we want to do, but we can not do them in the classical or regular way.

I ran across this video the other day about a man with no hands who does card tricks. He loved magic and wanted to do magic, but all the magic books explained the tricks using hands, i.e., sleight of hand. Instead of giving up his passion, he created his own tricks based on what his body could do. And he managed to fool two of the most well-known magicians with his skill.

What are your goals? What do you want to accomplish? How do you think your body is holding you back from accomplishing your dreams? How can you adapt and adjust how you go about things so you can do what you want?

Find Your Superpower

Although my little Honda can not maneuver some of the rough roads surrounding where I live, it does have superpowers. It has quick acceleration which is needed for merging into fast traffic or avoiding the unexpected action of a fellow driver. Plus, it has amazing gas mileage those SUVs can only dream of matching.

Many years ago I wrote an article about Lynne Cox. On paper, her body is less than ideal and is, in fact, considered obese. But Lynne has a superpower. Her body is uniquely built for swimming, and swimming in extremely cold water-temperatures. She can do what others can not do, no matter how hard they try, because she is built for it.

I may not have a supercool superpower like Lynne, but I know my lack of height has gifted me with not constantly hitting my head on things and I never complain about airplane seats being too close together; leg room is not a concern. Think about what makes your body unique. How has it gifted you with talents that others find difficult?

Instead of being angry that you were born with an imperfect body. Spend some time loving and accepting the body that helps you move throughout your life. Learn to adapt how you approach things so your body can do for you what you want it to. And uncover and embrace your superpower.

we all fail it is up to you to rise again

Oops, I did it again

Did you see this coming? I should have. Again.

Back in March, my perfectionist ego was triggered during the 30-day yoga challenge. To help create a daily practice of yoga, there was a contest to attend yoga every day in March. Those with the most days won a massage. At first, my competitive overachiever was triggered. It was not just winning, doing the most or being “the best,” but it was the feeling that I was a failure if I did not meet the challenge. Thankfully, after about a week I caught myself. Yoga isn’t about competition. Yoga is about a physical, emotional, mental connection, and a way of being which improves our lives.

we all fail it is up to you to rise again
Photo by Simeon Jacobson on Unsplash

Unfortunately, pride, competition, overachieving, and perfectionism are my life’s challenges, so I was tested again this summer with the headstand. At first, I set a realistic goal for achieving a headstand. I had a year and a half until my 50th birthday and thought that was a fair goal. I was proud that I did not push myself to do it faster. The concept of a headstand was the challenge and giving myself plenty of time to get there was in alignment with yoga. Instead of sticking to my plan however, a comment by the 20-something instructor that I didn’t need that much time kicked me into overachievement mode. Now the goal was to do a perfect headstand by my 49th birthday, just a few months away.

The yoga class I took at the time included headstands as a basic part of the routine, so I thought I would have enough time to master it by my birthday in September. However, I went on vacation for two weeks in July then in August there was teacher training at the studio. Not only was my morning routine thrown off and my daily opportunity to practice the headstand gone, but now the classes were much more difficult. I could not keep up with them and the perfectionist in me was triggered. I was no good. I should never have started yoga. Instead of quitting, I pushed myself harder. And I did what I set out to accomplish. I was able to do a headstand by my 49th birthday, but there was a price.

Because I rushed things. Because completion of the headstand was more important than technique. Because I was driven out of anger, resentment, and self-attack. I hurt myself. If you look at the headstand I shared, you can see I am in pain. The headstand happened, but it was not well executed and doing it caused damage. So much damage in fact, that for the last two months I have not been able to do any yoga and initially lacked even basic mobility. My routine changed from morning yoga to regular cupping and acupuncture to make the pain manageable. What happened?

What happened was that I got in my own way. I made the accomplishment more important than my health. I listened to instructors and gurus instead of my own body. I pushed myself toward perfection instead of accepting where and how I was. Throughout my life I have a history of pushing myself harder than is necessary, pushing myself past my breaking point. Because I push myself, I have accomplished amazing things. Always followed by a need for recovery.

The theatrical director Peter Sellars shared that his mentor told him he was bound to repeat the same mistakes, only in the future he would recognize them. So it is with me, and all of us. We all have our character defects. We all have the challenges we are going to be plagued with this lifetime. They will not go away. What we can do however, is notice them earlier and earlier, and choose differently when we realize we are headed down the wrong path.

What challenges do you continue to repeat? How can you approach them differently next time? How can you catch yourself earlier so things do not go too far? How can you cut yourself some slack when it inevitably happens again?

practicing yoga

A Bit of Self Care

I almost didn’t write a blog post this week, but then thought I would share what I am experiencing.

practicing yogaAfter a two-year hiatus, I started practicing yoga again. I love it. I enjoy it. It strengthens me. It helps be more flexible and centered. And, for those of you who do yoga, it can also be cleansing. After two months of dedicated practice, I am now experiencing a healing crisis. Basically, the yoga is doing such a great job helping me detox, that my body can’t keep up. My body can not release the toxins as quickly as needed. The result is a sort of a cold. Aches, pains, sneezing, and a host of other trying-to-detox symptoms.

At first, I thought I had a new food or environmental allergy. I tried to power through it. Then, with a friend’s help, I realized it was a healing crisis. Isn’t it wonderful to be able to label something so we can then deal with it? The first step to fixing issues is to step outside of the pain and look at things objectively. Once we can really understand what is happening and why, then we can address the problem and fix it.

The next step is to change our beliefs. At first, I resisted slowing down. Things are busy right now and I felt compelled to get everything done. But then I took the time to evaluate the responsibilities to which I committed myself. I looked at my to-do list and determined that no one was going to die if I didn’t take a day off. I changed my belief about what had to be done now and by me.

Finally, I granted myself permission to take care of myself in the way I was called. Friday was an afternoon writing for me, not for work. Saturday was my latest binge show (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries), a nap, and the treat of a massage. Giving myself time and permission to heal has, you guessed it, helped me heal. The result is a clearer mindset and a healthier body.

We Type A’s, caregivers, and overachievers have a hard time with the concept of self-care. Taking care of ourselves is an afterthought, if a thought at all. We look at our to-do list and try to power through it. We feel obligated to perform at a certain level no matter how we feel. We are weighed down and allow ourselves to be defined and controlled by our assumed responsibilities.

What is overwhelming you right now? Take a moment to determine if it needs to be done, if it needs to be done now, and if it needs to be done by you. Release unnecessary obligations for now, or assign someone else to complete them, or release them all together. Then grant yourself a bit of self-care, whatever that means for you. To serve others we need to be at our best. Therefore, we have to ensure that we are the first person on our to-do list. Once you are consciously choosing your responsibilities and ensuring proper care for yourself, see if you aren’t happier, more productive, and healthier.

diet

Want Better Health? Listen to Your Body

The other day I had a good laugh. I was being interviewed on an AM Radio show and the host Annmarie Kelly commented on the preparation I did for my trip to Peru. “I was laughing because you were so diligent. You followed all the instructions. You kept a journal.” Her comments really showed what a rule-follower Type A I had been. I was meticulous, tied to tasks, following the directions, and trusting in the prescriptive process.

Over the decades, I handled my diet in the same diligent way. As I mentioned in a recent post, I have always had body issues because although I am short, I am not petite. Along with my build, the stress I used to experience caused issues with my digestion. So over the years I have tried a multitude of regiments to help with my weight, digestion, and health. Whether it was taking a host of supplements multiple times a day, cutting out certain foods, adding in new foods, following portion control, restricting food combinations, or eating at specific times each day, strict, precise, and exacting did not begin to describe how I would follow the programs.

And none of them really worked. Finally, the other day I realized why.

dietA series of videos by Susan Peirce Thompson talk about the neuroscience of food addiction and the susceptibility of people to overeating. At the end, she had another prescriptive program to sell, but the gift she gave me was one of empowerment. Through her concept of the “susceptibility scale” I found an easy choice to food freedom. Don’t focus on food.

On the low end of her scale are people like my husband who don’t think about food at all. Most times he will not eat at all during the day unless his stomach growls. Food is the last thing on this mind. As a result, even though he can indulge in chocolate, he is thin and healthy. I scored much higher on the scale. The reason being is my obsession with food. The diligence and focus I had on my diets, appeared to be the same reason food was an issue for me. I was thinking about food constantly from the time I woke up until I fell asleep. What I hadn’t realized is not everyone thinks about food all the time. And we have the option not to think about food. Being a good Type A I was following a program, focusing on when and what to eat, constantly preoccupied with food, and therefore I was constantly eating even when I was not hungry. I was following the program. I was not following what my body really wanted. I wasn’t listening to my needs. I was following rules.

Over the last few weeks I have changed my eating. I eat when I am hungry. If that is six meals a day or two small ones, if that is what my body wants, that is what it gets. I don’t worry about right or wrong or what this or that medical expert recommends. My body knows what it needs and that is what I give it. And I don’t think about it in between. Throughout my day if Type-A food preparation plans come to mind, I gently release them. This is not the place or the time.

For me this new outlook has also helped with cravings for “bad” foods. If I want this or that food, I first check if I am hungry. If not, I don’t eat it. I also look into why I want it. Do I have a need for salt to replace minerals or a for a wake-me-up jolt of caffeine? If I am hungry and my body is asking for it, I eat it – without guilt and without overeating. If my desire for the food comes from emotional or psychological needs, if I expect any food to act as a hug, love, comfort or a release from boredom, then no. I listen to my body’s needs not my emotional desires in food choices.

Now I eat slowly and have learned what it feels to be full. I am no longer a member of the clean plate club. The other day I made a delicious salad. Lots of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, olives, tuna, and healthy olive oil to top it off. I ate about a third of it and realized I was full. In the past I would have eaten the rest because I made it. This time, I didn’t. I put the leftover salad into the refrigerator until I was hungry again.

Finally, I am aware of how my body feels after eating. Over the years I have determined that my body works best on whole unprocessed foods. I know I have negative reactions to gluten or having more than one cup of coffee a month. When I feel that emotional desire for foods that do not serve my body, recounting how they affect my body afterwards can help me say no to the foods and yes to a healthy body.

So here is the new diet I follow:

  1. I eat when I am hungry.
  2. I stop eating when I am full.
  3. I discern if my body or my emotions want the food. I only eat what my body needs.
  4. I eat slowly, consciously, with joy, and without guilt.
  5. I choose foods that do not negatively affect my body.

These five simple guidelines are a much easier regiment to follow then any of my diets in the past. And they seem to be working much better.

What is your relationship with food? What are your thoughts about following prescriptive diets?

Joe Heller cartoon

The Motivation of Negativity

For decades I worked in corporate marketing and for the last few years I have created marketing for my own business as well as helping other small business with theirs. Through these experiences and the master’s program I took in Integrated Marketing Communications, it was reinforced again and again that negativity sells. More than anything else, our fears and worries motivate us. Tom Denari president and chief strategy officer at the Young & Laramore advertising agency explains, “Research in neuroscience and human behavior has determined that – – while we may not be consciously aware of it, or even want to admit it – – we humans are more influenced by bad than good.”

This all goes back to the dawn of man. If we didn’t want to be eaten by a saber tooth tiger, we had to be consciously and consistently on the lookout for danger. We are instinctively programmed to be hypervigilant and reactionary to threats around us. Marketers realized this and often use this powerful tool in their advertising. Politicians spend more money on negative attack ads against their opponents then in promoting the reasons to vote for their party. Non-profits do not focus on all the good they are doing, but hit our emotional fears through photos of a starving child, an abused dog, or the potentially harmful results of not supporting their cause. Products are positioned every day to save us from the worry of social ostracism. And these negative ads work because they trigger us on a deep level. We are afraid something is wrong. We are afraid of being different. We are afraid of not being accepted. We are afraid something bad is going to happen. We are waiting for the other shoe to drop and will do anything, buy anything, to protect ourselves. And marketers are awesome at tapping into this fear.

Joe Heller cartoon
Top to bottom = Negative. Bottom to top = Positive. by Joe Heller

Article after article can be found teaching marketers how to create negative headlines, focus on a villain, and over-sensationalize issues to engage their audience. I always had a hard time with this in my own writing and marketing. I know that headlines like “The Top 10 Reasons Your Friends Hate You” will get more views than “Why You Are Perfect as You Are,” but I have a hard time consciously and intentionally tapping into instinctual reactions in order to manipulate my audience. It is very effective, but also very dishonest. And it is very bad for our health.

Being triggered by and believing in the negativity around us can result in “the nocebo effect.” The opposite of the healing mind-over-matter placebo effect, the nocebo effect is how buying into the fears advertised – think of the myriad of prescription medicine ads you see every day – actually makes us more susceptible to the illnesses. Consuming negative ads can actually cause us to experience the results the fear ads are promoting. What we focus on and believe in becomes our reality – mentally and physically. The negativity in advertising and the media also trigger the same negative stress reactions real world stressors cause. When we just think and imagine our fear, we experience the same increase in stress-related physiological responses while diminishing our natural immunity which a true life-or-death situation would induce – potentially causing long-term damage to our bodies.

Check it out for yourself. How do you feel after seeing a negative attack ad? Does your stomach do flips after seeing images of disaster? Are you depressed, tired, listless, and ill after being exposed to intense negativity on Facebook or the nightly news? There is an easy cure. Control what you digest. Stop feeding your mind with negativity. Catch yourself before you unconsciously react to a purposefully emotionally-charged negative ad or program. Notice how what you are mentally consuming is affecting your emotions and body. Limit and reduce the amount of unhelpful claptrap designed to trigger you. Take back control of your emotions from marketers, politicians, and the media. Don’t allow them to control how you are affected. Realize that you can choose your consumption and your reaction.

If you want to explore more ways to reduce the effects of being triggered by negativity, check out how to consciously work through unnecessary worry when triggered by sensational television reports.