Dear ‘Vid, (a personal letter from me to you…)

A business letter usually begins with an introduction or reference to the business at hand.  This is not business; its personal.

While I’ve, thankfully, not met you personally, you have been having a profound impact on my life over the past few months. Indeed, not just my life but the lives of my loved ones, my friends, my community, and the world at large. You have made your presence known in a way I’ve never witnessed before.

I’ll admit, I’ve had my fair share of “wake-up, shake-up calls” in my lifetime so far… and in hindsight there has always been something very valuable for me to have learned from each experience, BUT your world-wide-wake-up-call is on a scale I can barely wrap my head around.  It’s as though you arrived to shine a spotlight on everything we’ve let slide, everything we hoped someone else would deal with, or anything we simply couldn’t face for whatever reason we came up with.  All the cracks in our systems are now being illuminated so that we can no longer ignore what needs repairing, rebuilding, or re-imagined anew. I can appreciate this aspect of your arrival, however, I am personally struggling to try to deal with everything all at once.

In my heart, I believe that your appearance ought to be the beginning of a grand unification of humanity. “We are all connected.”  There is nowhere on this beautiful planet of ours that one can hide from you; you’ve encased us in a net of mind-boggling proportions.

This sense of global community is perhaps something you intended.  Maybe you’ve been sitting in a quiet corner of the world, hoping humanity would sort itself out and come to the realization that we really are all in this together, although our experiences may be (and in fact ARE, there’s no denying that) VERY different.  Yet we did not have this epiphany in time and now we strive to band together in the face of a common enemy.  Did you intend to be “the enemy?” Perhaps. It’s possible you actually meant to present yourself as “the teacher,” but we didn’t view you as such, we found it difficult to unite like that.  I don’t know.  As I said, I hope that we will come together as one during this global crisis, and yet I witness daily a spreading  divisiveness… the perpetuation of an Us & Them mentality. It’s hard to watch.  I don’t think it pleases you and yet your survival may depend on it. It’s a messed up situation and my mind goes round in circles trying to make some sense of the never-ending, always-changing information about your travels, visits, and evolution.

It’s Mother’s Day today.  I’ve much to be grateful for and I actually do count my blessings every day.  Your insinuation into my world has made that practice even more poignant. I am safe at home, with my children. We are healthy. We have food, comfy beds, and hot running water.  I will never take those things for granted.  My little backyard is truly an oasis, now more than ever before.  I’ve been laid off from both jobs, but I qualified for some emergency assistance so I do not have to worry about how I will pay my bills this month.  Forced isolation has afforded me some time to study, to write, and to work in my garden at the perfect time as it is springtime, the weather is good and there is much to be done.  I am fortunate to live in a part of the world where we have easy access to the internet so I can stay in contact with those I care about while staying home.  However, I miss a lot of things from the “Before Times.” I can barely believe that refer to our lives before your arrival as The Before Times. It’s surreal and unsettling. That’s quite an achievement on your part.

I miss a lot of little things, like going to the grocery store several times a week for fresh produce and to visit my favourite cashiers.  I miss the sassy repartee with the tellers when I go to my bank.  I miss chatting & collaborating with my coworkers and the volunteers who I work with.  I miss going “treasure hunting”  with my daughter at our local thrift stores.  I miss going dancing at the clubs that host live music in town.  I miss stopping in at a local pub or restaurant on a whim. I miss spontaneous road trips, camping, and family get-togethers.  I miss having my friends over for a girls-night.  I miss, more than anything, spending time with my most-favourite person… we’ve had a few, properly distanced visits over the past few months which I love, but the physical distance we respectfully maintain feels like its miles wide compared to what I’m used to.  Yet, because of you, we do this as we have many in our lives we want to keep safe – many seniors as well as people with compromised immune systems.  We feel perfectly fine, but you’ve made it known that you can hide within the healthy just as easily as in the obviously infected, so we respect the requests from our medical experts (whom you keep on their toes daily if not hourly with your chameleon-like changeability) to keep our physical distance.  It is hard to do.  It sucks. Right now, I really really hate it… but we are doing it to keep others safe.

I understand that it is most likely that at some point, each of us on this beautiful planet we call home will get to know you personally.  For some, the encounter will barely go noticed.  For others, it will be devastating; life altering.  I am not in denial that physical distancing now will prevent you from reaching almost every one of us.  But I am keeping my distance so that the impact will be less overwhelming to those of us in our healthcare system.  With that said, I am desperately tired of all this separation.  I am sorry to have ever heard your name. I am doing my best to learn what I can from your arrival in our collective lives so that I can take something from this experience.  I will not be sorry to see you go.

Don’t let the door hit you on your way out…

Making the Most of the Micro-Moments When You’re Busy

Happy #WellnessWednesday!
 
Do you sometimes feel like you just don’t have the energy or time to support your health & wellbeing? Yup, it’s a busy life!
 
But did you know, that just a few minutes a day doing something that improves your heath & happiness (yes, happiness is a BIG part of our overall wellness!) can make a profound difference? It’s TRUE!
 
I’ll give you my own real-life example:
Right now, I’m working a lot. Around 50+ hours a week, with most of those hours at a computer. Not what I’m used to! The first couple weeks were rough – my body hurt, my brain felt super taxed and my eyes were just done by dinnertime. I was feeling quite frustrated until I realized that I needed to approach my situation as if I was my own client! What would I do to assist someone who’d come to me as a wellness coach/yoga teacher? Well, I’d help them find what would work in their life as it was in that moment! So the next day, I began a much shorter than I’m used to yoga practice… seriously, 10-15 minutes of sun salutations. It’s all I could fit in, but I tell you, by the 2nd day my body, my mind, and my mood were all improving by leaps and bounds!
 
So please don’t give up on doing something to improve your quality of life because you can’t leave the house for a series of classes, or go for a run or to the gym for an hour each day.  Small actions can have a big impact – like the ripple effect of a tiny stone creating bigger and bigger waves as they move away from the center of impact in the water.
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
 
I’m here to help you find your way…

Eating Away at Inflammation

Inflammation. It’s not just for health headlines.

 

It’s a fact.

 

Scientists are measuring levels of inflammation in our bodies and finding that it can be pretty bad for our health; this is especially true when it’s chronic (i.e. lasts a long time).

 

Inflammation has been linked to obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, just to name a few.

 

But, instead of writing all about what it is, how it’s measured, and where it comes from; why don’t I focus on some foods packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants that are proven to help reduce it?

 

Here are my top anti-inflammatory food recommendations:

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries

 

Why save the best for last? Perhaps the most amazingly delicious anti-inflammatory foods are a sweet favourite of yours?

 

Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fiber, and antioxidant vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. manganese).

 

Oh, and did I forget to mention their phytochemicals (phyto=plant)? Yes, many antioxidants such as “anthocyanins” and “resveratrol”  are found in these small and delicious fruits.

 

In fact, berries, grapes, and cherries may be the best dietary sources of these amazingly healthy compounds.

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #2: Broccoli and Peppers

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant “sulforaphane.” This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.

 

Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the antioxidants vitamin C and quercetin.

Just make sure to choose red peppers over the other colours.  Peppers that are any other colour are not fully ripe and won’t have the same anti-inflammatory effect.

 

I pack these two super-healthy vegetables together in this week’s recipe (see below).

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #3: Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, fatty fish)

 

Fat can be terribly inflammatory (hello: “trans” fats), neutral (hello: saturated fats), or anti-inflammatory (hello: “omega-3s), this is why choosing the right fats is so important for your health.

 

The best anti-inflammatory fats are the unsaturated ones, including omega-3s. These are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

 

Opt for fresh avocados, extra virgin olive oil, small fish (e.g. sardines and mackerel), and wild fish (e.g. salmon). Oh and don’t forget the omega-3 seeds like chia, hemp, and flax.

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #4: Green Tea

 

Green tea contains the anti-inflammatory compound called “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, otherwise known as EGCG.

 

EGCG is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer’s.

 

Drinking steeped green tea is great, but have you tried matcha green tea? It’s thought to contain even higher levels of antioxidants than regular green tea. WooHoo!!!

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #5 – Turmeric

Would a list of anti-inflammatory foods be complete without the amazing spice turmeric?

 

Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin.

 

This compound has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis, as well as have anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties.

 

I’ve added it to the broccoli and pepper recipe below for a 1-2-3 punch, to kick that inflammation.

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #6: Dark Chocolate

 

Ok, ok. This *may* be slightly more decadent than my #1 pick of berries, grapes, and cherries.

 

Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants (namely “flavonols”). These reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping your arteries healthy. They’ve even been shown to prevent “neuro-inflammation” (inflammation of the brain and nerves). Reducing neuro-inflammation may help with long-term memory, and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke.

 

Make sure you avoid the sugary “candy bars.” You already know those aren’t going to be anti-inflammatory!  I love my chocolate treats super dark, slightly bitter & barely sweet!

 

Conclusion

 

There are just so many amazingly delicious and nutritious anti-inflammatory foods you can choose. They range from colourful berries, vegetables, and spices, to healthy fats, and even cocoa.

 

You have so many reasons to add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet to get your daily dose of “anti-inflammation.”

 

Recipe (Broccoli, Pepper, Turmeric): Anti-inflammatory Quinoa

Serves 2

 

¾ cup dry quinoa (pre-rinsed)

2 tbsp coconut oil1 medium onion, diced1 bell pepper, chopped1 dash salt½ tbsp turmeric1 dash black pepper

2 cups broccoli, chopped

In a saucepan place 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the quinoa and simmer until the water is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).

 

Melt coconut oil in a skillet. Add diced onions, turmeric, pepper and salt, and lightly sauté for a few minutes.

 

Add broccoli and lightly sauté for 5-6 minutes, until it becomes softened.

 

Add the cooked quinoa and stir everything together.

 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: Add some cayenne pepper or curry spice for an extra spicy kick.

 

 

 

References:

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/13-anti-inflammatory-foods/

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4717884/

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-green-tea/

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/matcha-green-tea/

 

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/brain-food-essentials-cacao

 

http://leesaklich.com/foods-vs-supps/foods-vs-supplements-the-turmeric-edition/

Mindfulness and Meditation…Do They Really Work?

Well…yes, they do really work. The fact is, science shows definite health benefits for people who use mindfulness and meditation.

 

Before we dive in, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page when we say “mindfulness” and “meditation.”

 

“Meditation” is the ancient practice of connecting the body and mind to become more self-aware and present. It’s often used to calm the mind, ease stress, and relax the body.  I like to set aside a few moments at the end of each day for quiet meditation in addition to my end-of-yoga-practice meditation time in the morning as often as possible.

 

Practicing “mindfulness” is one of the most popular ways to meditate. It’s defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Continue reading “Mindfulness and Meditation…Do They Really Work?”

Finding Stability… with my blood sugar!

How Do I Keep My Blood Sugar Stable?

 

Oh, the words “blood sugar.”

 

Does it conjure up visions of restrictive eating, diabetes medications, or insulin injections?

 

Blood sugar is the measure of the amount of sugar in your blood. You need the right balance of sugar in your blood to fuel your brain and muscles.

 

The thing is, it can fluctuate. A lot.

 

This fluctuation is the natural balance between things that increase it; and things that decrease it. When you eat food with sugars or starches (“carbs”), then your digestive system absorbs sugar into your blood. When carbs are ingested and broken down into simple sugars, your body keeps blood sugar levels stable by secreting insulin. Insulin allows excess sugar to get it out of your bloodstream and into your muscle cells and other tissues for energy Continue reading “Finding Stability… with my blood sugar!”

Eating my Damn Breakfast… and other meals…

I’ve lived with anxiety since I was 8 years old. I’ve developed my own ways of dealing with it, and have learned much from working with a variety of health professionals as well as through my own self-study.  I’ve got a good selection of things in my “tool kit” to help with cope with anxiety issues when they arise.

 

In the past year I noticed something new about my anxiety experiences.  While I’ve always been aware that WHAT I eat impacts my moods and my ability to cope with what life throws my way, and while I’ve been doing my best to eat regularly throughout my day to help keep my low blood pressure in check, I DIDN’T realize how much putting off eating was impacting my emotional & mental health.  When I don’t eat enough and/or regularly I’ve definitely felt my anxiety getting the better of me. Continue reading “Eating my Damn Breakfast… and other meals…”

Untangled – How Knitting Helped Me Heal

About a decade ago, I had a serious health crisis.  My kids were still in elementary school, I was a stressed-out super-busy Solo Mom who was trying to keep things together for my family.  I became suddenly ill with weird, seemingly random symptoms – I felt like I’d been “unplugged” from my body’s power source; lack of appetite, foggy brain, light-headed, skin sensitivities, extremely low blood pressure, and (what finally sent me quickly to the doctor) joint pain throughout my entire body that had me having to hold onto the walls or crawl to get up and down the stairs in my home.  The first doctor I saw tried to tell me I’d overdone it gardening and that at the age of 40 it was just how things were. (Seriously?!?!?!?!)  A week later I was able to get an appointment with the new doctor in my village and, with him being new to Canada, he ordered every test available to find out what was going on.
Exhausted and scared, I had to step down from my volunteer positions in the community to lighten my load but I still struggled to get anything but taking the kids to school and feeding them done in a day.  My blood-work came back showing that I had tested positive for Pernicious Anemia (my body does not absorb B12 through digestion), Celiac Disease, and Lupus.  Lupus is a serious autoimmune disease that I knew I did not want! As it turned out, I was among the 5% of the population that gives a false positive for Lupus (I was so grateful) BUT I did not find that out until I was able to see a specialist who determined that I’d likely suffered an adult case of a childhood disease (Fifths Disease).  It was a very long 10 months that I tried to figure out how to heal my body as best I could while I was waiting to see the specialist.  Enter KNITTING.
“Wait, what… knitting?” you might be asking.  I am a proactive, wholistic kind of person so I knew that as grateful as I am for western medicine, if there was anything “natural” I could do to heal my body, then it was going to happen.  The pernicious anemia is dealt with B12 injections, that’s easy.  The celiac disease?  I told the doctors I didn’t need to be sent for a biopsy to confirm, I was perfectly fine cutting gluten out of my life.  But the lupus… that’s where I had to do some research.
Lupus is a serious autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks itself causing pain and inflammation amongst other things. Much of what I read addressed the stress concerns of people who have autoimmune disease and that trying to find things to lessen stress levels can help (in some cases) the severity of the symptoms of the disease itself.  I kept reading about how knitting & crocheting was very calming for many people living with Lupus and other autoimmune diseases.  My aunt had tried to teach me to knit when I was very young but my mom wasn’t very good at it and I quickly forgot everything that my aunt had showed me. Suddenly I really wanted to learn again.
I went to my local library and got out books on beginner’s knitting.  I stopped by my local thrift store at the church and picked up some yarn and knitting needles.  I also found some videos online that I could watch to try to make sense of it all.  I started by knitting very plain, very simple scarves.  My kids and friends received them as gifts.  I was by no means a great knitter but I found myself looking forward to making time to work on new scarves.  The action of knitting was great for my hands, but what I noticed most was how it affected my mind.
My life then was very high stress.  There was so much chatter in my mind that it took me forever to fall asleep at night and it was difficult for me to stick with one task as other things I needed to be doing kept popping up in my mind and I would dash off to do the next “most important” thing.  With knitting, I would sit in a comfy chair with a cup of tea and some nice music on or a show that the kids wanted to watch and I would decide I could knit say 6-8 rows. After the first couple of rows were done my mind started to clear, it was as though knitting (essentially tangling yarn in a specific pattern) was UNTANGLING my stressed out momma-mind!  My breathing was easier and my body began to relax.  It was like magic to me.
I continue to knit to this day.  In fact, with the approach of autumn, I got out my newest project to work on in the early evening to help me unwind from my day.  I’m still a very beginner knitter, sticking with regular scarves, infinity scarves, and toques but I love the process and I love being able to gift people I care about with something I’ve made just for them.
That’s my experience with knitting… it helped both my physical and mental health in a huge way.
Some of the things I learned when I was researching knitting to help with health are:
  • It lower heart rate and blood pressure.  The relaxing effect lowers the levels of cortisol in the body.
  • It keeps your hands and fingers in good shape.  The motions of knitting keeps joints flexible and muscles toned.
  • It improves your Math Skills.  What???? True.  There’s a lot of counting, multiplying, measuring involved and that helps your brain function.  Cool.
  • It helps calm anxiety.  As I’ve already mentioned, it is very soothing and for me “untangling” my brain was a huge help to dealing with my anxiety.
  • It sharpens your memory.  You have to remember a lot of what you’ve done & what you are doing in knitting.  Memory skills improve.
  • It helps manage pain. Studies have shown that when people who are in pain are concentrating on something  then it allows them to be less aware of their pain.  Knitting definitely requires concentration.
  • It gives a sense of purpose.  A knitting project is like any project – it gives you a goal to meet.  That goal of a finished project can also mean you have created something to share with someone else if desired.  I’ve given away many knitting projects as gifts as I mentioned but I’ve also donated many to the homeless.
  • It boosts confidence and self-esteem.  Knitting is a skill.  You learn it, You continue to improve and master it.  When you’ve finished something you have a tangible item that you can look at and say “I did that!”
Oxford Dictionary
un·tan·gle
/ˌənˈtaNGɡəl/

Is Your Mindset Messing You Up?

The Momma Stress Mess: How It Messes With Your Health

 

We all have some level of stress, right? (Every mom everywhere puts her hand up… lol!)

 

It may be temporary (acute), or long-term (chronic).

 

Acute stress usually won’t mess with your health too much. It is your body’s natural reaction to circumstances, and can even be life-saving.

 

Then, when the “threat” (a.k.a. “stressor”) is gone, the reaction subsides, and all is well.

 

It’s the chronic stress that’s a problem. You see, your body has specific stress reactions. Continue reading “Is Your Mindset Messing You Up?”

Momma, Feed Your Brain!

The Gut-Brain Connection: How To Feed Your Brain

 

If there was ever a call for “digestive health,” this is it!

 

gut brain.pngYes, it’s true. Your gut is considered your “second brain.”

 

There is no denying it anymore.

 

And because of the new scientific discoveries about the vagus nerve, the enteric nervous system, and the amazing influence your gut microbes can have, it’s no wonder what you eat feeds not only your body but can directly affect your brain. Continue reading “Momma, Feed Your Brain!”

Take A Moment…

Let yourself feel how you feel. Don’t let it consume you, but allow yourself to process what’s going on. After awhile, hopefully, you can gain some insight into the experience.

Yesterday was a very difficult day for me. Something unexpected happened with a work project that is near & dear to my heart & in the moment I was completely blindsided by the development (although in retrospect I should’ve seen the signs).

The person who is my my sounding board, my creativity cohort, & my biggest supporter is out of town, so I felt very alone & lost. My kids did their best to help me, but what had to happen was feeling all the feelings. It was exhausting & there were about a dozen things I really wanted to get accomplished, but instead I spent the day working through my thoughts & emotions as best I could. I ate comfort food (yes… it was potatoes! Lol!), I cried, I slept, I organized stuff-whatever I needed to do in that moment.

Today, I’m still fragile, but I’m up & about and working on one of my other favourite work projects.

Life is not always smooth sailing, we do the best we can. And if that means having a day where we hide at home so we can process our challenges then so be it. No judgement. Be gentle with yourselves.

We’re in this together. ✨💛✨

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