So many of us have great ideas and goals set at the 1st of the year, only to lose them by February 14th and then beat ourselves up because we can’t seem to stay on track. Some of us are crushing it in some places and not in others. Today take time to reflect on your goals and see where you can up level your life and get back or stay on track with your goals and plans for 2019.
We are into the second quarter of 2019, how are you doing on your goals for the year? Many around the world just finished celebrating Easter, a time for Christians to reflect on new beginnings and creating the life they would like to have, rather than the one they were handed. In the natural world, at least in the northern hemisphere, this is the time of fresh starts, new sprouts, and lots of possibility. Dreams of the garden flowers, harvest foods, and vacationing come to mind.
As we move further into spring and all its hope, where are you crushing your goals? Where have you lost focus? Take the time to review what is working and what is not. Now is the season to reflect on next steps and make changes if you are recognizing they are needed.
Successful people know flexibility is part of the success process. Failure happens, and it teaches. If you find that an area is failing it is time to determine if / what needs to change. Revisit your goals and find the places that need an adjustment, then make it.
If you have lost focus, it is time to visit what keeps getting in your way and get back in the game. Here are 3 ways to refocus, reflect, make change or get back on track starting right now.
Revisit your plans. Remember how we looked at setting goals at the start of the year. Re-read your plan. If you did not create a written plan or outline, do it now. It is important to have some representation of your goals you can look at regularly. Otherwise it becomes too easy to slip back into old habits and beliefs. Change takes time and without regular focus on what you would like to see different, you will fall back into old patterns. So today, pull out your yearly goals and revisit them. See yourself doing them. See yourself being successful having accomplished them. See yourself going through the motions to get them done. A little bit of work each day on your goals, goes a very long way.
Look at your vision board. If you did not create a vision board at the start of the year. Make one now. It does not have to be complicated. Find a few pictures that represent your goals for the year. Then paste them in a place you will see them regularly. I put mine in my daily planner. I took a page in the book I didn’t need and used that to put my vision board on. Then I look at each day as part of my morning meditation. During this time, I do not worry about the work, the steps, the how of accomplishing my bigger goals. I just look at the pictures. This exercise has been shown to help our brains orient to our goals and therefore find more success accomplishing them. When we are “primed” for our goals, we can see the opportunities that once may have been lost in our daily grind. We can see the items we need to say yes to, and the ones we need to say no to. When you have a good vision of where you are going and what you want, the daily to do list gets more clear. Thus, helping you focus on what you need to do next.
Create a reflection process. It can be in the morning, mid-day, evening the timing does not matter as long as it is your best time to focus, and it needs to be done with regularity. Many people skip this step because it feels like “doing nothing”, however it is very important step in making your dreams a reality. During this time, dream. Just allow yourself to review your vision board, your mission statement, and your overall direction. Let yourself dream whatever you want about your goals. See them big and full, see them in all their colors, vivid details, and possibility. This is not a time to worry about how you are going to make your dreams a reality. It is not a time to worry about greed, materialistic, or grandiose ideas you might have. This is a time for you to really allow yourself to see your dream complete. Your dream is perfectly ok, as long as it is not about harming another as this keeps your stuck in negative patterns rather than growth patterns. It does not matter if others find your dream valid or interesting. It is not theirs it is yours. As long as you are focused on positive aspects, you can have whatever you want in whatever way you want it. It will not be the same as other people’s dreams. It is not theirs … it is yours. Just allow yourself to see it in your mind’s eye in its entirety and feel the wonderful feelings of successfully accomplishing it.
Today, check back into those goals you created to start 2019. How are you doing on them. If you were to rate yourself on a scale from 1-10, 10 being crushing it, how are you doing? Could you give yourself an 8 or better? If not, why not. What has gotten in your way and how can you find a solution around your obstacle? If yes, what are you doing that is working? Can you create more of that everyday to help you reach your goals with success?
Our thinking determines our focus. Take 2 people in a horrific situation and they can have 2 very different perceptions of the experience. You control how you respond to any given moment in your life – good, bad, wanted, or unwanted – you are in control of your perception. If you shift your perception you have the opportunity to change how you experience the situation. Doesn’t mean you have to like it, want it, approve of it, agree with it – just means it is the one you are are in and you are controlling the way you show up to deal with it.
I know it gets busy this time of year. Do not let that stop you from getting your workout in. Here’s a quick, fast, and full body cardio blast workout you can do anywhere without equipment. Feel free to wear a weighted vest if you have it or just use body weight.
Workout Basics and Warm Up
To plan your workouts think about doing something focused 3-6 times a week and taking 1-3 days of what’s called active rest (clean house, walk the golf course, go for a hike, take the dog for a long walk, do squats throughout the day – link it to every time you go to the bathroom for example.
This movement is important for recovery and allows your body to do something active for fun, wellness, blood flow to the sore spots from your focused workout, etc. This keeps the body oriented toward energy flow and movement.
Making sure to get a weekend workout in is a great way to make sure your active rest days are not consecutive. Consecutive days off can make it harder to return to your focused workouts on Monday.
Make sure to warm up. Spend 5-10minutes doing easy movement, stretching, and allow the muscles you are going to work to “wake up”. Work to include all the big joints and major muscle groups. It’s a great time to get your music right, your shoes tightened or loosened, or make sure you hair is out of your way. By fixing these things now, you are more likely to stay focused on the work portion.
When you complete the round, give yourself a pat on the back, a fist pump, something that celebrates your accomplishment. This is a big deal for helping habits stick, and helps you be realistic about all the hard work you are doing.
If you are unclear about a movement, look it up (Check out my YouTube Tutorials Here). There are lots of resources online that allow you to make sure you have good form. Always work up to adding weight or making a movement less stable. Good form comes first.
Do each exercise for 1 minute and rest for 30 seconds in between. Repeat 3 times through
Push up to High Knees
Jump Squats – ballistic with 5 second pause at bottom
Donkey Kicks – try using both legs and balancing on arms
Mount Everest Mountain Climbers – knee to the outside of elbow, keep your butt low)
Cool down with slow skaters moving low, but slow and swinging arms
Full body stretch
YOU DID IT!! Now that you have finished the “work” portion, it is time for flexibility training. Spend some time stretching all the muscles you worked – in this workout, it’s full body so give all your major muscles a good stretch. Then grab a good post workout snack. Together these get your muscles ready for tomorrow’s movement and make sure you are ready to meet your goals.
Words of Caution …
Please make sure to follow your body. Do not push through pain. Discomfort/Challenge are different than pain. We want to challenge ourselves we do not want to hurt ourselves. Find the level that is right for you and move at that level. Make sure to choose weight and stances that support your body style – if you have to use the wall to do your push ups do that, if you need a chair or a bench use those. Make sure you are doing what you need to do for your body type and current personal level of fitness.
So many of us are careless with our environment. We want cheap and easy. We want chemically enhanced smells or flavors. We want to feel good right now no matter the cost. Many of us do not guard our consumption well. We watch what the advertisers put on TV, listen to the stories the newspeople are selling, and fill ourselves up with food made in laboratories. You control what you consume. Consume wisely.
Pain is bi-directional it runs from the body to the mind or the mind to the body. We can interrupt these signals and you will not feel as much or any pain. In a meta-analysis of studies examining how our brains register pain Apkarian, Bushness, Treede, and Zubieta (2004) found evidence for using distraction as a non-medical pain management treatment. Participants in the studies reviewed had decreased rates of pain when distracted in a variety of activities (activities were dependent on study performed).
If you are a person who lives with chronic pain what methods have you employed to help yourself shift perspective, accept, and create a life that meets your needs now? So many who experience chronic pain feel dejected, disappointed, and angered when medical treatments fail, and they are unable to reduce their pain with pharmaceuticals. Pills are estimated to be about 40% effective with pain states (Turk and Winter, 2014). They are miracles for certain types of pain and negligible for others. If you are someone who has hit a wall with medical treatments, are tired of the side effects (drowsiness, lack of engagement, constipation, stomach/digestive issues, brain fog/cognitive decline) it may be time to look into options for non-medical pain management supports.
Many find relief using a combination of treatment models, acceptance, and perception change. Psychological treatments can be helpful in these areas. They can support the medical prescriptions while supporting behavioral changes, processing the grief and loss the pain has created, and help build a new paradigm for successful living with the physical changes.
This super simple snack packs a punch and lots of energy for the rest of your busy day.
I am not a great cook, I’m good when I want to be, but honestly my mind is usually somewhere else and following recipes is really, really hard for me. Any distraction – 3 kids, the dog, a friend, a flower – and boom, we are having “blackened” food again … usually without the Cajan part. So I started making my food simple. Really simple. I wanted healthy and easy.
Roasted and salted sunflower seeds without the shell
The Cooking Part …
Cut the avacado
Remove the Seed
Sprinkle the sunflower seeds on top – about a handful or so
Spoon it out of the avocado shell and eat it
You can add salt, pepper, garlic salt, chili powder, etc for some extra flavor and spice.
What to serve with …
This goes well with all sorts of stuff: tuna fish, tomatoes, salads of all sorts, crackers, celery
Pain is an interesting signal. It is here to help us pay attention. Sometimes our signals get crossed. We find pain in situations that are not physical, yet feel physically painful – the broken heart, gut response, or goosebumps rising. Physical and emotional pain run on the same circuits and there are a variety of options for treating it. Use your mind to help your body. Seek psychological treatment for chronic pain states.
The problem with pain – is a big topic in our media right now. There is so much talk about the opioid crisis, questions about what is chronic pain, and wonderings about how we got here. The conversation is large and happening in all sorts of places. In my practice, I deal a lot with pain. I have many clients who struggle with chronic pain, or have been hurt and the acute pain keeps them from activities they love leading to depression or anxiety, or the trauma of the injury disrupts their nervous system, leading to a host of problems. In addition, I see a lot of opiate addiction as a result of prescription medications. Many do not even know how they got to the place of addiction, let alone how to get out of it. I often get questioned about how to deal with pain, especially when opiates are not something available or wanted. This week we’ll be looking closer at pain and what to do about it.
What is pain anyway?
For most they would answer, this is the signal your body gives when it is hurt or there is something you need to avoid because of potential hurt. However, pain is not always physical and physical problems do not always cause pain (Turk and Winter, 2014). Physical and emotional pain run on the same circuits and whether the pain started as a physical problem (injury/disease) or an emotional problem (depression/grief/anxiety/trauma) the result can feel the same. Physically painful.
Due to mental health stigma, lack of understanding of the body’s “warning” systems, and heavy marketing of pharmaceuticals many who experience pain sensations turn to drugs. Unfortunately, many of these pills to fix the problem make it worse. Pain medicines often lower your threshold for pain, thus causing a cycle that creates the need for more pain meds.
Since it feels physical, and our society lacks understanding of how the mind-body connect, we turn to physical solutions. Often at the expense of solving the problem or trying options that may be more powerful. Now, this is not to say medications and physical medicine do not have a place in pain treatment, however many people do not engage in the other half of health – mental health – as part of pain management. Thus, they are left with only half the equation, half the treatment, and often lots of frustration.
“But it’s so physical you say, it must be a physical problem.”
Maybe. According to Apkarian, Bushness, Treede, and Zubieta, “… emotional state can influence pain perception, and a recent study shows that negative emotional states enhance pain-evoked activity in limbic regions, such as ACC and IC”, (pg. 474, 2005). In a meta analysis on questions related to how humans experience pain, their study looked at areas of the brain responsible for pain sensations. Findings from the many studies in their analysis suggest that pain is felt in different areas of the brain for acute versus chronic pain states and that cognition and emotions influence how, when, and why we experience pain. They also showed evidence for non-medical pain management treatments, such as distraction and acceptance. Yet, for many they never think to turn to or are offered options for non-medical pain management, and end up in the opiate cycle of addictive patterns and need.
We know our mind and our bodies are connected. Most would say “yes, Stacy you are right”, but not everyone understand’s just how closely connected they are. In my world of somatic psychology we do not even consider them to be separate entities we can speak of. The mind lives in every cell of the body and every biological cell in your body is responding to the environment you are in, including your thoughts and emotions, all the time, every minute of every day.
When you consider that your physical structure is actually a mental structure with a physical container it becomes easier to see how much your thinking and feeling – which are subjective to the environment around you – play a role in what you feel physically. In my graduate research I studied how the physical body is influenced by psychological trauma. This trauma could be an event(s) or negative thinking patterns or a chronic sense of overwhelm. All create a similar physical response in the endocrine system that responds as though you were physically hurt or fighting off a disease. The bodymind senses a problem, inflammation rises, and your immune system gets ready to fight. However, in the case of psychological trauma and chronic stress states there may be no tangible predator and your body begins attacking itself. This leads to chronic inflammation – heart problems, cognitive issues, joint pain, digestive issues, chronic pains states like fibromyalgia, and more. The cellular structures sense a problem, however it may not be a physical problem per say, but … it becomes one. The end result is the same … sensations of pain.
Non-medical pain management treatments.
Many people want to know why pain syndromes are on the rise in our society. This is a complicated issue with many facets, however if we take a global look we can see a number of ideas and areas you may be able to influence your own behavior and help decrease pain in your own life.
Pay attention to what you allow into your psyche. We “share” pain.
Humans are biologically pack creatures whose brains developed to connect to other mammals. Our brains respond to others in pain. When we are exposed to others in pain, we feel it in our own systems. Even if we do not feel the pain as a physical process, our personal sensitivity to pain is activated (Liu, Meng, Yao, Ye, Fan, and Peng, 2019). By watching that daily news program, listening to stories on the radio of atrocious things happening around the world, and by reading about torturous things we are activating our own pain system and could be elevating our own sensitivity to pain from other sources.
Food and environmental toxins: another source of inflammation.
In the United States of America our food options can be a source of increasing inflammation in our physical structures. As noted above, when inflammation rises so does our susceptibility to other problems that may seem unrelated but need medical attention. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is very sad, indeed. Most of the foods we are offered are loaded with chemicals, sugar, and salt. On their own these ingredients may not be a big deal but the enormous amount of them in our food, cleaning, and hygiene products is too much for our system. In addition to what we may consume by mouth or through our skin, the mass production of single crops creates a high need for pesticides and chemical trails that get into our water supplies, poison the air we breathe, and lands on our skin through indirect contact.
Learn to read food and product labels and remember cheap food is not always good food. Keep in mind that bigger is not always better and more does not always equal care. As many in our culture look to food to fill emotional gaps in our life, find the “sweetness” of life, or “fill up” when we are feeling empty, lacking, alone, bored, or fearful it is important to examine how you use food. The “value” sized cheap chips loaded with “cheese” flavors may be creating an empty feeling you will not be able to fill no matter how much and how often you physically eat.
If you are confused or feeling overwhelmed by these concepts reach out – there is support and education to help you learn more and work through these issues.
Another source of stress in our life … ease!
What, you say. How can this be?! Well, the more comfortable we get the harder it is for us to find our own confidence, esteem, worth, and strength. When things are easy we do not have the opportunity to “test” ourselves and learn about our edges. These edges are important for self growth and expansion. Instead, we stay in our comfort zones and let other people’s lives distract us from living our own.
We stay in the same cultures, doing the same things, and operating on autopilot. This creates boredom and a lack of engagement. Then we look to other things to “fill us up”, see the food paragraph above. We also start to consume media, mood altering substances, tech / internet / using devices, and other items that are not healthy in large quantities. When this overindulgence happens we shift our internal chemistry and we can create situations in which our bodies are overpopulated with bacteria and flora that is not helping us. This imbalance can create a decrease in our body’s ability to create the neurotransmitters, hormones, proteins, and enzymes we need for optimal mental and physical health.
The more we watch, listen to, and read about tragedies around the world, see images of others in physical and emotional pain, and engage in mindless distraction the more we feel lost. Remember our systems are created to connect, thus our passive engagement with these things creates a physical response in our system, even if indirectly – we are being impacted by everything we consume, in every way we consume it. Guard your consumption well.
Living in a Fear based culture … real or imagined / accurate or created. It all ends the same in the body – inflammation.
Lastly let’s talk about stress. In our society we talk a lot about stress, but instead of decreasing it, it often seems like it gets harder to control, even when we know about it. Many of us are not great at setting boundaries and struggle to find the limits to what we want to give, engage in, participate in, and be involved in. We feel pulled to say yes to the groups we are part of (schools, friends, religious, community, kid activities, non-profits). We haven’t learned to say no … or say yes appropriately for our personal system.
Understanding outside influence and group dynamics to set up our fear based culture
Many of us continue to get asked to “do more with less” at work, school, in our household budgets. We are fed lines about what we should want, need, have and do not know what the “spin” is. Some of us are not good at checking the source. We consume media, conversation, social media as though it is true. We figure if the information is coming from a source we like, trust, or feel is “like” us it must be true. We forget that many of these sources are mining our data, targeting us, and working to activate us toward something – usually something that gives that group profits or power. As a result of being overwhelmed we narrow our focal areas and become more rigid and polarized. This is a classic outcome of group dynamics. Social sciences have been studying how groups form, polarize, strengthen, and implode for decades. We have many great examples of group dynamics to study throughout the years. As a result of this polarization and rigidity we become more fearful about “others”. This fear results in a physical change in our bodies.
Fear is a response we need. It is really helpful when we need a warning system. It is very good when we need to run and get away, however when we are engaged in the activities listed above we can create a sense of fear in the world based on the messages being “spun” to capture our dollars, attention, and engagement. This fear, the kind that is created in the mind based on what we see, read, hear, has the same physical responses in the body as fear based on being chased by a mountain lion. As a result our physical body reacts and feels something that prompts us to move away or fight. This is caused by an increase in adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol. When we are not actually running away, we do not have the opportunity to metabolize the stress chemicals pumping through our system. As a result our system stays “revved up” and inflammation begins to rise. When it is chronic and there is no opportunity to metabolize the hormones, the inflammation states create physical health problems – again, see the above list. The quick result is often a pharmaceutical and all its side effects.
Couple all the above with a lack of exercise and movement, which helps our bodies metabolize out the inflammation states, and you have a recipe for a physical disaster. Add the fuel around mental health stigma, feeling overwhelmed, being too busy, and suddenly it is clear why it is easier to go to a medical doctor and get a pill. Pills are easy and often very effective for the symptom. They just aren’t always the answer for the problem. Often the problem is a behavioral change(s) that will take time to implement and willingness to do the hard work of self examination and radical acceptance. This work does not always result in zero pain, but neither does the quick answer, it just masks it for periods of time. Mental health treatment for pain helps us engage in our life to the best of our abilities and can increase our quality of life even if we continue to experience chronic pain states.
You get to choose how you will live, what you consume, and what you do with the time you have – Which will you choose?
I am sure you have heard of the power of laughter. We have all sorts of sayings about laughing, living with laughter, and keeping your smiles going, but many of us struggle to find enough laughter in our regular day. For many adults they have not felt the deep release of a good belly laugh in a long time. If this is you, find a way to laugh today … even if you laugh at nothing in the beginning. Just start laughing.