Ballard Naturopathic Blog | stress

Stone Turtle HealthNaturopathic Medicine and Massage Therapy for the Whole Family

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Stone Turtle Health Blog

Resolutions

January 5, 2012

Happy New Year! Every January, many people make New Year's resolutions but very few of them follow through. We've all purchased gym memberships, hoping to shed a few pounds, only to see them lapse after a few visits or dedicated ourselves to a new hobby, spending money on shiny new gear only to find that same gear in the back of the closet when we do our spring cleaning a few months from now. Why do we make resolutions in the first place and why don't they stick?

I believe that we make resolutions for a few reasons- 1) peer or family pressure, and 2) eternal optimism. With the former, external pressure to make changes might be an initial motivator but won't allow us to maintain those changes. It's a stick without a carrot. The latter is just the opposite, in my opinion, the undying hope that maybe this year will be different, that we have it within ourselves to be better people, that if we only try YET AGAIN to make changes, THIS is the time they'll be successful. Neither of these are bad reasons to make resolutions or life changes, but I don't believe that they are enough to make lasting changes. 

If you change for another person, no matter what the reason, you're not fully investing yourself in that change. It's not happening because you want the end result but because you know someone who does or who won't stay if you don't change. Better to consider their request as one factor in a list of pros and cons for making the change YOU want to make. List all the positive results AND all the negative consequences AS THEY WOULD HAPPEN TO YOU. If your spouse wants you to lose weight because they're worried about your health, list all the health benefits you would attain from losing weight and all the repercussions for staying at your current weight (including the possibility of adding more) and determine for yourself if the benefits outweigh the costs. Quitting smoking? Not just because your partner wants you to, but because you will reduce the risk of cardiovascular events, breathe more easily, and be able to live a longer, healthier life with more time for your family. 

Be realistic. I always tell my patients that if they have a drinking problem, I'm not going to tell them to quit cold-turkey, but I do want them to stop drinking before noon. Then, before 4. Then every other day. We sabotage ourselves by creating unrealistic goals and then being unable to stick to them because we don't change everything in our lives to make it more convenient for us to stick with the changes. Want to drink more water? Add an extra water bottle to your daily intake or make sure you drink a full glass of water before each meal. Want to exercise more? Start with stretching for 10 minutes every morning, a 20 minute walk on your lunch break or scrolling through the yoga video options on Netflix and adding some to your queue. By making realistic changes you are providing yourself with an opportunity for sustainable life changes that will lead you to your goals. Try working backwards when planning- where do you want to be in 12 months? What goals need to have been met in 6 months for you to be on track to meet that year-end goal? How about in 3 months? Next month? Next week? break it down to doing one or two simple steps every day that will allow you to reach your objective in a measured and attainable way.

Finally, create your own cheering squad. Tell a few friends and family members (those who you find supportive) what your goals are long-term and how you're meeting them this week. Make sure you tell SOMEONE; this will make you accountable in your mind and will make it less likely that you will quit. Offer unconditional support to them on their goals and provide them with a sounding board for their challenges. It is my hope that all my patients will make realistic, sustainable changes in their lives in 2012 and will find themselves at the end of the year healthier and happier than they began it. Happy New Year!

 

Tis The Season

December 1, 2010

So many families celebrate holidays this winter, whether it's Thanksgiving, Ramadan, Hanukkah, Christmas, Beltaine, or New Year's Eve. There's a deeply entrenched need to celebrate the good fortune of the past year, express gratitude and love for our family and friends, and shout out into the darkness that there will be a day when the sun returns with life. And there are as many ways to celebrate as there are families and individuals. Many people have a large traditional family gathering; some forgo the hoopla as they use winter as a time to reflect on their past year and their coming one, whether through formal New Year's Resolutions or through their chosen religious or spiritual practices.

In our family, Christmas was celebrated at no fewer than 5 houses, due to divorce and extended family celebrations. As exciting and energizing as the constant whirlwind of holidays with lots of cousins, even more presents, and even MORE treats, it was also quite a hassle for our parents to spend the majority of the holiday driving to the next place. As a teenager, holidays held the promise of getting to see family members I had a special connection with but were also the cause of much sighing and eye-rolling, and not a few tears as I struggled with an awkward adolescence and never seemed to be able to buy the right thing, dress the right way, or say the proper words. As a young adult, in school for an eternity, I was never able to afford the gifts I wanted to give. Rarely did Christmas measure up to the memories of my childhood (when, of course, my parents did the shopping, everyone else did the cooking, scheduling, cleaning, and party preparations). Lately, holidays seem to be about running through the stores at the last minute to cross another item off of my gift list, fighting traffic, and trying to make sure I can spend time with family and still see enough patients to make the January rent.

I'm fortunate in so many ways. To have my beautiful family, my beautiful clinic, wonderful friends and mentors who support me throughout the ugly business of birthing a dream is such a gift. I now, like many people before me, have lost friends and family who meant so much to me. Not only do I miss them every day, but their loss gives me another reminder that what I have is so precious. The past few years have been rough, but at least I'm still around to celebrate. This year, I'm planning to immerse myself in family (hold the politics & religion, please), show each of my friends how much they mean to me, not with gifts necessarily but by striving to be fully present with them and letting how much I cherish them shine through, and take some time to assess the past year both professionally and personally so that next year can be even better. What do you do for the holidays? Do you enjoy it? If not, what would you rather be doing and why?

When is it "being reasonable" and when is it "giving up"?

March 29, 2010

The thought crossed my mind last night as I was reading a friend's blog post, "Why try? Why not settle for 'good enough? Why do I get so frustrated when I see people I care about decide to give up their search for the best in what  matters (or what I think should matter)?" We all settle for some things, continue to strive for others, but what is it in our minds and hearts that allows us to decide which is which? And why do other people's choices matter so much to me? Where do I "give up" and where do I refuse? Why?

For me, I "give up" on exercise because I'm afraid of spending my whole life trying and failing to be healthy, be a certain size, and be pain-free. I feel like I've set my goals astronomically high and that may just be what prevents me from attaining them, albeit in a step-wise fashion. Maybe if I set a goal to do a certain set of exercises each week, add on to that as the weeks pass, I'll be more likely to complete that goal and find the other goals (weight loss, pain reduction, etc) fall into line automatically. For me, exercise is an easy area to give up in, it's not always enjoyable, the results are not immediate, it's more of a long-term endeavor. Wouldn't it just be okay to say "this is where I'm going to drop the ball so I don't drop it in more important areas of my life"? These days, a lot of articles talk about how women spread themselves so thin, trying to be everything to everyone and to meet their own expectations. I'm sure this applies to men, too, but I can't speak from experience there. What I do know is, something's gotta give. So maybe the way to become "active" is to give up my ideas of what I have to be/do/look like in order for that label to apply to me? Maybe I can get around "giving up" by not setting such lofty goals for myself? Maybe I can get away with doing the same for housework?

One area I refuse to settle in is romance. As I entered my 30s, doubts began to creep in about whether settling wasn't such a bad idea, whether I would be able to find somone who met my lofty ideals, and whether I was even capable of achieving the type of personal relationship with the partner of my dreams. My biological clock felt like it was speeding up. Tick-tock-tick-tock.chil-dren-ba-bies-tick-tock.. I began worrying when the alarm would ring, telling me my time was up and I'd better resign myself to dying alone. But underneath that incessant beating, there has come a relaxation. A softening of the absolutes of my 20s when I would never date someone who...never fall in love with...never enjoy... While my preferences and morals remain the same, I've opened my eyes to see a wider range of potential partners who fit into them. I still refuse to settle for someone who doesn't love me unconditionally (or vice versa), someone who doesn't love themselves, or someone who is more concened about their personal profit than the future of the planet. I've learned that those who "need saving" need to do it themselves. Fortunately, the more people I meet, the more I find to like about them and the more forgiving of other people's faults I become (and my own as well).

What hurts my heart is when I see people I love actively settling for something less than what would bring them happiness. I'm not just talking about people doing something other than what I would do myself; I hope I'm more mature than that. I mean people who have confided in me that they're settling for the least terrible option without even exploring all their possibilities. I am a creature of possibility. If I'd settled for the least painful option, I'd probably have been married three times over, stayed in a job that paid the bills but killed my soul, or have given up altogether. Why does it bother me when other people choose to take the path of settling, knowing that they want something more? Maybe they find other rewards in settling, reasons why they choose what they do.

I, like many other people, have seen friends die young with their potential untapped. I've seen children die who never had a chance at the kinds of opportunites taken for granted or fearfully shied away from. A large part of my frustration, and a large part of my struggle to help other people achieve their dreams and to realiza my own, comes from grief and anger that the ones I lost never got a chance. I would say it's anger at opportunities for happiness squandered in the face of people who never got to have that opportunity. It's what keeps me moving forward and what makes me want to carry (or drag) others forward as well. I know it's their choice. I know it's their decision. My argument would be "you're only given an unknown amount of time in this form on this planet. Why wouldn't you grab life with both hands?"

So, I guess, I need to grow up, learn to let other people make their own choices and leave them be about the decisions they make. I need to stop taking such a personal interest in whether someone else has joy or is just settling for less pain. I'm working on that and I hope you'll bear with me as I learn that other people's pain is not my pain, that decisions painfully made are never without their own rewards, and that 17 minutes of a 30 minute yoga video is not "settling" but progress.

 

Healthy Love

August 2, 2009

One of the factors that determines how well we cope with stress is the extent and connection of our support system. Family, friends, co-workers,mentors, and health professionals (spiritual, mental, and physical) all provide the assistance we need to deal with life's daily upsets as well as with major traumatic events and personal grief. The level to which we unburden ourselves on others can become unhealthy if taken to either extreme. While relying too much on the web of caring indivudlas who make up our community can leave us unpracticed in making our own decisions, feeling insecure, or out of control of our own lives, not taking the time to confide in another person puts us at greater risk for mental and physical health concerns, a sense of isolation, and limits our ability to truly develop sympathetic relationships with others. Finding a true balance will allow us to gain strength from those who hold our best interests at heart, who may be able to approach our own volatile emotional situations more dispassionately and provide us with much-needed objectivity. The best support comes from relationships that allow individuals the opportunity to make their own decisions but honestly reflect back the consequences of those decisions, for good or ill.

As a member of someone else' s support network, it can be challenging to provide love and support without judging, without overstepping boundaries in an attempt to help and without taking their problems on yourself or seeing them through the filters of your own subjective experiences. In many ways, though, having an opinion or a past experience that colors your interactions can be a positive thing, if you are able to frame your conversations in a way that best benefits the person seeking your advice and you don't get caught up in your own issues. Bringing a calm, nonjudgemental but differing viewpoint to the table can offer wonderful insights to the person struggling with the problem. In the end, everyone has to make their own decisions, in their own time. Just as you could not force someone to take care of themselves physically, you also can not force them to take care of their heart and soul, no matter how pure your intentions. The best you can do is to provide the support and unconditional love that will help them make the deicions that are right for them as you maintain a healthy distance that is right for you.

Seeking balance is never easy and there are many opportunities to fall out of equilibrium, many issues of our own that we deal with when watching a loved one. However, the perpetual exercise of returning to center ourselves strengthens our ability to take care of those around us when they need us most.