The holidays can leave us like our bank accounts: depleted. So it's not the time to set ourselves up for failure with lots of unachievable resolutions. Here is my suggestion for what to do instead.
It’s mid-afternoon and you’re grabbing your third cup of joe. Sometimes it seems like you are running on fumes. Is it insufficient sleep that is making you so fatigued? Stress from an overwhelming amount of work in the office or at home? Tension with a family member that's worrying you? Maybe it’s all of the above! How can you replenish your energy naturally? I met a scientist who contends that water has everything to do with our energy levels and our overall health and vitality, but, he is decidedly not referring simply to our hydration level, nor is he advocating the old eight-glasses-a-day guideline. Dr. Gerald Pollack, a leading scientist and researcher from the University of Washington, believes our health is linked to the water in our bodies and he believes that this water is actually present in our bodies in a fourth phase, known as EZ or exclusion zone water. In contrast with regular water, H2O, which is electrically neutral, EZ water, H3O2, holds a negative charge. It is a sort of internal battery that must continually be recharged/built up to keep us running efficiently.
According to Jerry, we need to look for ways to get more negative charges from the world around us to create positive energy in our bodies! The goal is to continually build the EZ water up and maintain ample stores for optimal health. Jerry has several specific recommendations for doing this:
- Soak up the sun! Sit in an infrared sauna! Infrared energy is all around us. Capitalize on it! Our muscles are soothed and we feel energized from infrared energy. It penetrates our bodies and builds the EZ water which helps our bodies function properly. The negative charge is replenished by infrared light.
- “Grounding” or “earthing” allows the negative charge from the earth to transfer to our bodies. This practice involves taking your shoes off and allowing your bare feet to connect with the ground. Sit in the park with your bare feet on the grass. Walk on a beach barefoot. Get your feet dirty in your garden soil. This, too, builds our EZ water stores.
- Oxygenate! As its EZ water's H3O2 chemical formula indicates, it has more oxygen. Try hyperbaric oxygen therapy! It was first used by the military to treat wounds that wouldn’t heal. Jerry has conducted lab experiments that indicate that changing barometric pressure through adding pressure and oxygen builds EZ water, improving the function of every organ in thebody and promoting healing.
- Aspirin is not just for headaches. Since aspirin effectively treats many kinds of pain relief affecting a number of the body’s organs, the hypothesis was that aspirin builds EZ water throughout the body. Jerry said that laboratory tests have confirmed this hypothesis. Aspirin apparently helps the body maintain its negative charge. (For those wary of aspirin, Jerry reminds us that the chemical that aspirin’s roots trace back to willow bark.)
- Drink more water. If negative charge comes from the water in our body, and if the cells in an individual’s body lack sufficient negative charge, that body must have insufficient water. This is why drinking water is important as a tool to replenish our stores. However, the water that comes out of our taps doesn’t have a lot of negative charge. You can get more negatively-charged water from spring water or through water that has been through a reverse osmosis process.
- Eat more blueberries! Blueberries, kombucha, and artichokes are good sources of anti-oxidants. How are anti-oxidants helpful? Oxidants remove negative charge. So, anti-oxidants are good for us because they prevent the loss of that negative charge.
I’m just scratching the surface of all Jerry shared with me. If you want to learn more, listen to the interview here, on Wise Traditions podcast #67 “Negative charge creates positive energy.” The bottom line is that our bodies are negatively charged, and they require the negative charge that comes from this EZ water for good health. We must build up and maintain sufficient stores to enjoy vitality and well-being. To get that positive energy, look for ways to replenish that negative charge. It is critical for life.
Hilda Labrada Gore, a long-time DC resident, is an Integrative Nutrition health coach and fitness professional. She is the host and producer of the Wise Traditions podcast. Wise Traditions can be found on YouTube, Apple podcasts, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Overcast, Google Play Music, tunein, and at westonaprice.org. Basically, you can find it wherever you get your podcasts!
By now, you've certainly heard of Marie Kondo's bestseller "The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up." It touts the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing. Kondo encourages readers to hold on to what brings joy and release what does not. This book has sold over one million copies in the U.S. Clearly, it's touched a nerve. We have too much stuff and we know it. We want to pare down and streamline our living space and our lives. We want joy. Lent is a time for de-cluttering, too, but for the soul. We need to strip away the excess activity or whatever it is that distances us from God, our joy. We sift through our busyness and make time for stillness and sacrifice. It's a time to re-focus on what matters.
To be honest with you, both my heart and my house need some tidying up.
Regarding my heart, I want to release worries and concerns (verbalized or internalized), my own pride and sin, prayer-lessness, and more. In terms of my home, there are knick knacks on my dresser, unworn clothes in my closet, and random personal effects that need to be let go.
In Luke 10, Jesus sent his disciples out to share the message of love and healing. He charged them: "Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road." Traveling light was key to their focus and purpose (and probably peace and joy, as well).
So, I'm in. I want to travel light, to be more focused on my faith, the people around me, and joy. I want to lessen the physical clutter around me and the spiritual/emotional clutter within me. So every day for the next 40 days, I am letting things go. They may be physical, as below.
They may be emotional. Yesterday, I gave away a worry about a family member. The game will be sold at a thrift store. It's out of the house, for good. The worry, not so much. I just might accidentally pick it back up again. But I'm taking it day by day. At least for one day--yesterday--I let it go. When my concern came to mind, I released it to God, by faith. I laid it at His feet, for Him to take care of, instead of me. (He's better at such things, by and large.)
What are you doing to mark the period of Lent? Are you eager to streamline your life, to hold onto what brings you joy and release what does not? Join me!
I went out to dinner recently with the mom of a two-month old. She seemed ravenous, gorging on the chips and salsa that the waiter had just placed on our table. Between bites, she confessed, "Today all I've had so far is a Fiber One bar and a Lean Cuisine lunch. I'm famished!" We laughed with her, as she all but sucked on the tablecloth where a little salsa had spilled, but I was also troubled to hear her say this. Eating so little was not only impacting her, but also her little one. How could she possibly sustain both of them on a meager protein bar and a processed frozen dinner? The "feast or famine" diet leads to poor choices and mood swings hinging on the time of day and the setting of the stomach (empty or full). And it doesn't happen only to those who can't afford food or are living in a food desert. It can happen to all of us who simply neglect the basics of self-care.
I have witnessed the same inattention to nourishment in my own home, to be honest. The cabinets and fridge are full of good food, but in the busyness of life, not everyone avails themselves of it. When I check in with family members as they come home from work, they often complain of feeling stressed or anxious. I ask "What have you eaten today?" The answers run the gamut from "a chai latte and a bag of chips" to "nothing, pretty much." The lack of nutrients has left them depleted and feeling on edge. I recognize it because I've been there, too.
Did you know that having a regular eating routine is good for you? I'm not even talking about what's on the plate (though obviously I consider this important, too). Right now, I'm addressing the timing of meals and snacks. I suppose this is on my mind because I recently interviewed Philip Weeks, author of "Make yourself better." Philip is from the U.K. and he told me, in his brilliant British accent, “We can’t work completely erratic lifestyles and be healthy. It’s not going to happen." He discussed the importance of routine, and emphasized the benefits of eating at the same time every day. He attributed the routine of the British people to their survival and sanity. While London was under siege, during the Second World War, the people would take their tea and meals at the usual time. It was something their bodies relied on, and that gave them a sense of comfort and continuity. Routine is a de-stressor.
Being Hispanic, and, well, just being me, I have to admit that my schedule tends to be quite fluid and, yes, sometimes erratic. Philip's words have given me food for thought. I am working on my daily life routine (turning off the laptop at 11, getting in bed by midnight, etc.) I think this should help me in terms of normalizing my mealtimes, as well. What about you? What's your schedule like, in general, and in terms of eating? Are you unintentionally on the "feast or famine" diet? Comment below with ideas on how to get on a more regular schedule for both your body and your spirit. I look forward to learning from you (which I always do).
By the way, my entire conversation with Phillip will be aired on Monday. You can go to iTunes or Stitcher now, and subscribe or wait till Monday and look for the episode called "Make yourself better."
So we are two weeks from Christmas. Is anybody else out there starting to breathe more shallowly? Two weeks is 336 hours. In black and white, that looks like plenty of time to prepare, but in reality it it is more like the blink of an eye. And when I blink, all I see are the dishes in my kitchen sink, the long list of people I have to buy gifts for (how ever does Santa do this? Oh, yeah, he has elves!), and looming deadlines for work. How could such a wonderful celebration (the MOST wonderful time of the year, if Andy Williams is to be believed) turn into a pressure-filled, hair-pulling season that makes December 25 look less like a birthday and more like a giant wave threatening to engulf you and toss you onto the beach like yesterday's Deer Park water bottle?
I love Christmas! I really do. But the trappings can leave us feeling...well, trapped! In the past 24 hours, I have talked to two friends who are completely overwhelmed. One has too much going on at work---exhausting her before she even walks in the door. And the other has too much to do in her personal life---family concerns and commitments are draining her time and emotions, so that she has little left over to meet holiday demands. And, yes, demands they are, indeed. We all feel them breathing down our little necks: the shopping to get done, the cards to send, the parties to attend, the halls to deck, and more. These, on top of our usual day-to-day obligations, can make everything seem less than merry and bright.
It's the holiday case of "too much to do, too little time." So here are four timely tips for all of us on what to do when there is far too much to do.
- Breathe. Seriously. Dolphins regularly come up for air (whales do, too, but they're not as cute). So, come up for air! To make this happen, you must think of it in terms of survival, as if your life depended on it. Pretend that your house (or your office) caught on fire. You would evacuate even if you had a lot of work to do. So, just pick up and leave everything, even if only for 5-15 minutes. Get outside, listen to music, or (for you young moms) even shower!
- Cross things off the list. Gasp. Is this sacrilege? No! Not everything on your to-do list is "do or die." What can you forgo completely? Consider what you can legitimately drop without crushing a three year-old's heart. You simply must get your niece a present. But do you have to send out snail mail greetings this year? Is it imperative for every single nutcracker to come out of storage? Or can a few wooden soldiers stand watch in the dining room, representing the rest?
- Scale down. If you truly can't cross something off the list, what can you do to make your "imperative Christmas activity" manageable? Can you make the dinner a potluck meal, instead of cooking it all yourself? What if you just stopped by the party later than planned, so you can relax at home for an hour or two first? Can you see that special friend the week after Christmas? Reduce your load. Santa does the same thing as he makes his trip around the world. Look for ways to make your sleigh lighter!
- Live with the chaos. Do what you enjoy and let the chips (and jalapeño dip) fall where they may. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Leave the dishes in the sink and go to the party. Keep the date you made weeks ago, and just wrap the presents later, if at all (sometimes a little red bow will suffice). Dim the lights (it makes the mess harder to see). Or just decorate around it.
Two weeks. 336 hours...I think. That's what my google search told me, but I honestly don't have time to work out the math on my own. So the next time you start to feel pressed for time, stressed, crinkled, and crunched, remember the gist of the four tips: Don't do it all. It'll be okay. All will be well. December 25th will roll around just the same. Celebrate the Reason for the season and stay sane while doing so. Do what you love and let the rest go.
"I feel like a billionaire doing meaningful work and making an impact. I walk into a room and I feel like 'I've got the best job.'" My son heard these words recently in his office downtown. Can you imagine? It sounds like someone is LOVING their work! Most of us would kill (well, not actually kill because then we would end up in jail, despondent and depressed, and we'd be out of the job market altogether, so let me rephrase that) most of us would be THRILLED to love our work. How can we go from feeling apathetic or unhappy about our work, to excited and motivated? I'm talking about work on this health-related blog because every aspect of your life is related to your well-being! If your 40+ hour-a-week job is boring, uninspiring, and depressing, you will become bored, uninspired, and depressed. Here are tell-tale signs that your work is having a detrimental effect on your health:
- you hit "snooze" an average of 5-7 times on workday mornings
- you spend 45+ minutes playing games or scrolling social media sites in your office (or during meetings)
- you "reward" yourself with junk food at the end of a long day
- most of your conversations with family and friends boomerang back to your work frustrations
- you are "too tired" to exercise, get together with friends, spend time with family
This is a short list. But if any of the above resonate with you, what next? Follow these "transportation" tips to move from a ho-hum job to a job that keeps you humming.
1.Where do you want to go? You know how the GPS shows various routes to get to the same destination? If it's time to take a new route, you first need to identify where you want to end up. So make a "wish" list of where you'd like to be professionally. Don't just think about it; make it more tangible by writing it down. This is the first step in the job search journey. Stephen Covey says "Begin with the end in mind."
2. Keep moving and keep your eyes peeled. Feeling stalled out, career-wise? Start your engine and get moving! Connect with friends in your field in other offices. Use LinkedIn or Google+. Let people know that you are interested in a change. And don't let age or stage make you feel stuck. As I was leaving one position for another, a colleague confided in me, "I'm too old. I can't move on." He was stalled out. I didn't believe his reasoning for a moment. (Plus he was around my age!) Some group, somewhere, needs your particular skill set. Keep your eyes open for that exit ramp.
3. Don't be afraid to switch tracks! My husband went from being a youth pastor at a church to an athletic director at a high school. Not an obvious segue, at first blush. My husband had to see the potential to transfer his experience in one field (no athletic pun intended) to one that seemed very different. Both positions required organization, planning, and, obviously, lots of love for and patience with teens. It's been a great fit!
4. Take the back road! Pursue your interests on the side and see what develops. Some hobbies can be parlayed into careers. I used to play the guitar just for fun. I played it at my kids' elementary school and for small groups here and there. I wasn't very good at it. But now I play in church every Sunday as the leader of a worship band. I used to exercise just for fun. Now I am a Regional Director for Body & Soul, an international fitness organization.I had NO clue I could get so far with my little hobbies. My hobbies have become my job-bies.
Until you can move on, how can you make your current job less miserable?
1. "Lean in." Not into the job, if you simply can't stand it. No, "lean in" to what you actually do enjoy about your work---it could be your co-workers, the actual work itself, or its proximity to a favorite restaurant. Whatever it is, "lean in" to that! Keep that on your mind when the negative bits start to dominate your thinking.
2. Become the "Invisible Girl" from Fantastic 4. I don't mean don't show up to work! I mean, imagine your private life as an impermeable bubble that your work life cannot puncture. This way, the toxic work environment or load cannot seep into your home life. How do you do this, in practical ways? Leave at the pre-determined time. Don't check email or answer the phone after hours. Do what you love best after five and on the weekends: take pictures, work out, watch movies, take a hike! Whatever you do, be present as you do it, setting the work aside in its own little separate bubble.
Are these thoughts helpful? I am currently loving my job-bies, so I am writing these tips from a happy place. Is anybody out there struggling, trying to get out of a bad situation? If so, please comment below and add your own thoughts to the discussion!
Raise your hand if you have felt guilty when you've chosen to read a book (or binge on a t.v. series) instead of folding laundry. Or when you opted to meet a friend for coffee, instead of completing a certain project for work. Or when you blew off a PTA meeting to grab dinner with your spouse or good friend. Now that all our hands are raised, let me just say, it's okay. Wait, no. It's MORE than okay. It probably was just what you needed! Too often in life, when we take a break, we feel like we should be doing something else. But I like what author and theologian Henri Nouwen has to say on the subject: "Don't should on yourself!"
It is perfectly legitimate, and, yes, even often absolutely necessary to leave some things undone so that you can do something that restores you. Whatever it is that "fills your bucket" or replenishes your stores, do it! Even if it's just for one evening, or for a mid-day break, you will find that the mini-vaycay can work wonders on your state of mind and heart. It's like water to a parched soul, oxygen to an astronaut. (I guess I still have the movie "Martian" on my mind!)
Seriously, though, as a health coach, I see people overlook this aspect of health all. the. time. You can eat as "clean" as Gwenyth Paltrow, but you will still be unwell if you stress yourself out through over-work and under-self. When you keep going and going and going, it's as if your body is in constant fight-or-flight mode. You will literally wear your adrenal glands out and no amount of caffeine can bring you back to life. When you get to that point of exhaustion, (and let's face it, we all do from time to time), you are no good to anybody, least of all yourself. Literally. You are not being good to yourself or anyone else in your life.
Parker Palmer, author of "Let your life speak," has this to say about taking care of ourselves:
“I have become clear about at least one thing: that self-care is never a selfish act, but it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on the earth to offer others.”
Parker is saying (and I am well aware that I am making him sound like he's my best friend, but, hey, he has made a difference in my life, and I do feel close to him, so...), yes, Parker is saying that the only way to care for those around us, is for us to be in some, decent kind of shape to do so. I don't mean physical shape. I mean emotional and spiritual shape.
Back when I worked for Naval Intelligence, a colleague of mine made a remark about my attitude, one day. I told him that I hadn't really been consistent in my devotional life in those recent weeks. His off-hand response? "Yeah, I can tell." My self-care, time for centering prayer and grounding Scripture at the start of the day, had fallen by the wayside. Apparently, it was making me stressed out and negative and impacting everyone around me, in ways I had failed to notice (but that others had.)
So, my advice? Get thee to a pumpkin patch! Get outside. Enjoy fall! Blow off the laundry and the mopping! Delegate the work project (if your boss lets you)! Find something that fills you up, replenishes, and restores. And if anyone questions what you're doing, tell them that you're doing something sustainable and replenishing for the good of others...and yourself!
On the street, I cringe when I see a mother on her cell phone while she completely ignores the baby right in front of her. Maybe she’s the nanny and not the mother? Regardless, no sooner do I pronounce judgment against her in the courtroom of my mind, than I am on my own device, turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to the people and life around me.
Our devices stupefy us. We sit in front of them for hours on end, at work or play. From stay-at-home moms, to students, to CEOs, we are all tempted to put real life on hold as we give our full attention to the dazzling and demanding virtual show. Spoken words and true connections are like droplets of rain on a water-resistant slicker. They sit on the surface but do not penetrate our hearts. We are impervious to what is going on around us.
And it’s not just our devices that distract us from real life. Busyness also numbs us to reality. We are pinballs, careering from one event to the next, especially this time of year---do you feel me, moms of elementary-aged children? We need a moment. But we are like frantic and harried vacationers, so eager to make our destination that we barrel through quaint small towns, missing their charm (and what we could learn if we adopted their pace).
We are hypnotized by the illusion of connection (with our devices) and self-importance and efficiency (with our penchant for busyness). How do we snap out of our self-induced trance? Below are four simple ways to refresh our spirits and reconnect with real life.
- Come up for air - …in small ways. Put an “end time” on your work, like an expiration date on a carton of milk. My sister is a champ at this. She leaves the office at a pre-determined time, regardless of how many emails are in her inbox, and I’m pretty sure she has thousands! She also chooses not to access her work remotely once she gets home, even though there is obviously MUCH to do. She comes up for air every time she does this and it allows her to connect with her husband, children, and friends, in a way she couldn’t otherwise. I want to be like my younger sister when I grow up. Give yourself a grown up “time out." It’s a gift, though, not a punishment. Take a break for 5-10 minutes every hour or so. Whether you’re at home, folding laundry, or at your desk churning out emails. I've used the timer on my iPhone to remind me to take a little walk or do something different for a few minutes. It gives me a clearer mind when I return to the task at hand. …and in big ways. A family vacation rocks but don’t wait for that. If possible, look for pockets in your schedule to take a mini get-away of some sort. My husband and I went to Winchester, Virginia for an overnight recently. It was no Hawaii, but, hey, it served its purpose. We got off the treadmill and caught our breath and connected with each other.
- Attach – As we detach from our devices and busyness, we find room to attach to something positive---a person or pastime that we enjoy. Set up a mini date with someone close to home or a friend that you love but haven’t seen for months. Pick up your phone (for a second) and give them a ring! Return to a hobby that fell by the wayside---knitting, tennis, reading. Detaching gives you the gift of time you didn’t have before! Use it to attach to something more life-giving!
- Read a book (esp. a good one) – Summer is made for this! It can be an educational book or one that is simply an escape. I’m reading two very different books right now. “Gone girl” has nothing to do with my life (thank goodness) but it’s very entertaining. And “The good and beautiful God” is fantastic and super inspirational---with tons of tips for self-care and spiritual growth. Audiobooks come in handy, too, to get your mind off your burdens while you commute or tend to simple tasks around the house.
- Eat "clean" for a day (or a week) – This is a surprising way to lessen the load of stress that you may be carrying! Adjusting your diet for a day is a simple way to detox (without the ambitious undertaking of making smoothies that require ingredients from a rainforest in Brazil). Find a friend and do this together, if you want accountability. For 24 hours, avoid processed foods (snacks in bags, meals in boxes) and buy fresh (from a farmer’s market, if possible). Don’t eat out for the allotted time period, either. You should feel a natural energy boost. You will also 1) save money and 2) feel better.
Notice that the acronym for these simple steps is C.A.R.E. When we step away from our devices and the busyness of life, we are caring for ourselves and therefore better equipped to care for others and meet the rigors of our day-to-day lives. Let me know how it goes for you when you implement these simple steps! I care.