Sunday, August 9, 2020

Why Worry?


Take it from a "could be" over-worrier. Some worrying is normal and can even be good us. Then there is the excessive worrier. Let me differentiate between the two. Good worrying could come from stressful events such as preparing to take a test or a job interview. Worrying to an extent about these events could help get a person ready by pushing a bit more studying for the exam or preparing more for the upcoming interview. On the other hand, an excessive worrier may react to an event too quickly or in such an intense manner that one becomes irrational and not able to think clearly. It has been proven that people with high anxiety levels have trouble shaking off their worries and that is when physical symptoms come into play. 

With excessive worrying, you focus on what might happen, as your mind just takes off on its on into overdrive. If chronic worrying begins to affect your every day life and spills into your job, relationships, sleep, appetite and lifestyle, then there is a problem. That is when overeating or undereating, smoking, drugs or alcohol come into the picture. There are ways to help solve this problem. There is no shame in asking for help. Worries are a normal part of life. It is when it begins to overtake our lives that we need to take action. Our brains can actually be trained. 

In our newspaper the other day, I saw a comic strip called, "Pearls Before Swine" by Stephan Pastis. The title of a paper that Pig was writing was called, 
'My Daily Worries Broken Down By Percentages':
40% - Worries about things that have happened
30% - Worries about things that will happen
20% - Worries about things that may happen
1%   - Not worrying that I'm letting my guard down

Then Rat enters the picture and says, "Fun Day!" This is when Pig replied, "I worried you'd say that."

    There are negative beliefs about worry and positive beliefs about worry. If you believe that your constant worrying is harmful then more than likely it is. On the other hand if you believe that your worrying helps you avoid bad things and prepares you for the worst, you may be causing other problems. You may even be trying to convince yourself that it is the responsible thing to do. Actually, once you realize that worrying is the problem, not the solution, you can regain control of your worried mind. There are steps to take to train our brains.

  • Have a specific worry period and use this time to write down your worries, think about them and allow yourself to worry for a reasonable amount of time
  • Distinguish between what is a worry that can be solved and those that are unsolvable. If it is solvable then brainstorm ways that you can take care of the problem. If the worry is not solvable, accept the uncertainty. Most chronic worriers try to predict what the future has in store for us. Thinking about all of the things that could go wrong does not help. Worst case scenarios will stop us from enjoying the present.
Always tune into your emotions. Accept them, don't sweep them under the rug. Know when it is time to move on and interrupt the worry cycle. This can be done through meditation, exercise, doing something that brings you happiness, deep breathing and even talking to someone about your worries. A good way to know if talking to someone is helpful or not is to be able to know if after talking to this person do you feel better? If not, move on to someone else. Perhaps a life coach or a therapist if there is no one close to you that you feel that you can trust and count on to be there for you. The one person that you want to avoid is another chronic worrier. 

Training our brains is possible. It is not a negotiable to be happy. Our emotional health and our happiness is not a bonus. While navigating life's ups and downs, we need to understand that we won't feel positive all of the time. We are human beings and we have a full range of emotions. Practicing happiness is a skill. Challenges are constant but struggle is optional. Get in the mindset of practicing happiness. 

After your worry period that you have allowed yourself, be sure to find the little things that you are grateful for and things that bring you joy. Practice kindness not only to others but self-kindness.

Life is not about being perfect. Practice! 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

What Could Be Good About 2020?


So many people have said that they would just like to start this year over again. Well, unless someone has a magic lamp from a genie to rub and make a wish, this is not going to happen. It seems that we started out ok, at least for most of us. We were not in the know of the coronavirus looming out there unless we were part of a scientific team of doctors monitoring what was happening in China. Some say they warned the appropriate people and others say they did not heed the warning. That is irrelevant now, as that is all hind sight. 

It was not really until sometime in February that reality began touching most of our lives. Talk of symptoms, how to avoid getting COVID-19 and possibly shutting down everything except for essential workers started to gather momentum. Groceries, pharmacies, hospitals for emergencies only were about the limit. Eventually, some food establishments were allowed to have curbside pick up for food, however, no dining inside. Wearing masks was encouraged, as was staying home or at least no larger groups of 10 in any location, plus 6 foot distancing from one another. Schools went to virtual learning. We were in a global pandemic. 

It is still very important to not see this as the end is coming. There must be some hope and not to minimize the severity of the pandemic there are some good things happening. It is important for our mental well-being to focus daily on what is something good happening in our lives. Things that bring us joy.

First of all, just know that it is ok to not be ok right now and just do our best to get us through this unprecedented time. I have heard this from a USA Today article written by the director of the American Psychological Association all the way to Nataly Kogan, the author of Happier Now.  

The first stage is to know that our brains will create a very dramatic and sometimes negative story. We have the ability to chose to go along with it or to stop it right there in its tracks and practice recognizing that we are in charge. It is a very liberating feeling. You may ask how do we do this? It becomes empowering simply because we have chosen not to judge ourselves if we are feeling negativity. 

Instead, accept and acknowledge this feeling. Knowing that you feel this way and being aware of it allows you to then make a choice to shift out of the negativity by asking yourself, "Is this helpful?" First of all, there is always only one correct answer. "NO!" This is the moment to think about a specific grateful anecdote and say to yourself, "During this challenging time I am grateful for....." It must be specific. Instead of saying you are grateful for your family or home, hone in on one small thing, such as perhaps your husband made you a cup of coffee, you have a beautiful rose bush in bloom in your garden. The more detailed, the better. This, according to Nataly Kogan is using your gratitude lens.

The next step is to do a kind act. Actually, this helps you more than it does the other person. It helps us feel connected. Send e mail notes or snail mail notes, phone calls to loved ones...just blast away at acts of kindness. I became aware of just how much happier I was when I practiced these small but major steps through this pandemic. The important thing is to realize that empathy does not mean that you are forgetting about your issues. It is caring and understanding of others. One must not just tell someone to think about what they are grateful for. It is important to validate what they are feeling and accept them for how they feel (and this of course, includes yourself). Whatever is breaking you down will also be what helps you shift your mindset and will open you up to practice gratitudes and acts of kindness.

Some of the good things that I found happening all around us are listed below. I am sure that everyone could add a list at least this long or longer. We will get through this together! How is this for an opener? 
  • A 103 year old grandma beat COVID-19 and celebrated with a Bud Light.
  • Drive-in movie theaters are making a come back either showing movies or being the stage for concerts while participants stay in or around their cars.
  • Drive by parades to celebrate graduations and birthdays virtually.
  • Restaurants are sharing some of their secret recipes for us to create at home. All we must do is try to watch the pounds sneaking on from all of this good food.
  • John Krasinski made the news from his home with SGN (some good news, which only focused on good things happening in the world)

  • T

  • Two lovable Labradors, Olive and Mabel, gave a sports-less world some "athletic" competition in videos narrated by British broadcaster, Andrew Cotter. Turns out they got a book deal.
  • There was a beautiful quartet symphony performed to an audience of house plants in Spain. After the performance, all plants were donated to essential health care workers at nearby hospitals.

We have all been swamped on social media with precious pictures of babies and puppies. All adorable! Even the one who stole a pair of dentures and one who thought he was a dolphin.

 Americans rushed to adopt and foster pets in need amid this pandemic.
  • Netflix and Disney have become very creative and have brought on movies before they had to, just to help entertain us. Also, talk show hosts have become creative in broadcasting from their homes and sharing steps of handwashing while singing a nursery rhyme. 

  • Stanley Tucci teaching James Corden how to make a specialty drink. As well as Ina Garten sharing the recipe for a gigantic cocktail.
  • Brad Paisley brought together other artists and some of the general public to be in a video (filmed virtually, of course) and creatively wrote the song, "Ain't No I In Beer."
  • Then there is the hair thing. When salons closed, we all had to live with gray, with hair that needed tended to, even Ryan Reynolds grew a ponytail. 

  • Along with the pandemic is a time of trying to rebuild diversity and a way to get us all together and acknowledging that this is something to share and talk about. Crayola crayons came out with a new box of crayons to help children use their own creativity.

  • Books out for us to read to help us all know how to start difficult conversations.

    Happy stories coming to light in the news such as a FedEx worker disinfecting a package he delivered to a home once he saw the sign on the front door that someone in the house had an autoimmune disorder.
  • Grandchildren visiting on FaceTime or Zoom or even outside of their windows.

  • Through all of this I truly have one person who I respect and has remained steadfast in trying to share his knowledge, some of which changes as he and his immunology team learn more of COVID-19.
  • OK, I had to place this picture in because I just found it funny. Brad Pitt does resemble Dr. Fauci somewhat in this picture.  
There is one thing that still to this day I can't understand. 

Somehow through our human spirit, we will get through this together. My heart goes out to all of those across the world who did not survive or are living with the left-over symptoms of contracting the virus. We must come together and work as a team. It is not a political or racial disease. This is a serious pandemic and requires us to ALL take it seriously. 

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Come Together!


Here is some late breaking news: "YOU ARE NOT SO SPECIAL!" This blog is my blog and I am writing it to get my feelings out and heard. I truly am not trying to start a debate, just something to think about.

The thing is, I keep asking myself as I talk to others via social media, not in person, why are we as Americans not seemingly able to get a handle on COVID-19? Other countries have. This blog has nothing to do with the politics of any of this pandemic. Leave them out of the picture, please. I know that I have. Why? Because this is bi-partisan challenge. I have witnessed both sides causing issues and the main problem that I see is that we as Americans seem to have a feeling of 'entitlement.' Having a sense of entitlement is a dangerous form of self-love because it often harms ourselves, which in the long run harms everyone. We as one are not the center of the universe. 

Sometimes, this narcissistic sense of entitlement began in relationships from a young child through adulthood. It is an almost passive/aggressive type of behavior. Some examples are not being able to compromise in relationships. Think about when you are out driving and a driver cuts you off by speeding by you and pulling in a space on the interstate that is not safe, or not knowing how to take turns at 4 way stops. Most of us are able to take a deep breath. For me, I simply say to myself out-loud in my car, "Go ahead because I know that you are much more important than I am and have a more important place to go than I do." 

There are many symptoms of entitlement such as:
  • feeling sorry for yourself, a form of self-pity
  • you believe that you deserve happiness and go to extremes to ensure that happens, often at the expense of others
  • aggressive behavior, stating your rights are being violated (forgetting the rights of others)
  • constantly looking at other people or political party lines as threats 
  • looking after yourself and your needs and desires more than anyone else
  • having a hard time compromising
  • at the expense of others, you feel that you have priority because you are more important

This sense of entitlement is why I believe that we can't get control over the sharply rising numbers of COVID-19. Our country is suffering because of this.

First, and foremost, is the importance of wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Due to mixed information from all of the leaders, both in government and in the science field led to this. Even though, scientifically, this has been one of the most influential methods of helping to stop the spread of this virus. Some people say that it is uncomfortable. Yes, it is. I totally agree. When out in public, it should be on your face. If you have a medical problem and can't wear one, then one of two things come to my mind. Either, you should not be out among the public due to your own personal health issues, or you get a plastic face shield and/or a doctor's note to state the reasoning why you can't wear one.

Masks are miserable. They fog up my glasses, they make my glasses slip off my face when I look down, they are hard to breathe in, especially for long periods of time, such as waiting in a doctor's office. However, I do it for others, as well as myself. It is a selfless thing to do. It is not all about me, as many of us already know.

Another important guideline is the 6 foot social distancing rule. The picture above is a funny example to me in that it makes me think of when I taught early childhood and my assistants and I made a colored rope with knots on each 6 ft. segment to teach our children how to give personal space walking up and down the hallways. Apparently, this knowledge did not "take" with all that we came in contact with. This was a common practice and still is, among teachers of young children. Now the stores must place tape on the floor to show where to stand and even then, there has been times when I have turned around and politely asked someone to back up from me. Really? Is it that hard of a concept?

There has been talk of possibly closing back up some to get a handle on the virus where we all quarantined ourselves except for the essentials. If we want our economy to come back to normal then we need to stop acting so juvenile. By this I mean, the spikes came when states opened up too quickly. Parties, bars, beaches that are way overcrowded and no social distancing, rallies and protests of all kinds, churches that opened without social distancing (many of which had many outbreaks of COVID-19 within two weeks of calling the congregation back to service). What is wrong with watching your service on TV for a while until this is under control? On the very day that Florida had their highest spike, Disney World opened up. That is just continuing the spread and this in the middle of the second highest epi-center of the virus in the U.S., barring California. 

One story in particular, but does not stand alone as the "ONLY" case of what were you thinking? A prominent person had a medical condition and thought that that he should be tested for the virus as a cautionary action. He tested positive and he found out that news in six days. During this time, he did nothing to protect those around him. On the contrary, he met with others at work, played golf at a private club and even went swimming at an exclusive pool setting. In countries that have contained the outbreak, such irresponsible behavior has not been tolerated. This is a case of, 'I am entitled to live my life. To hell with anyone else!' 

Containing this contagious disease requires aggressive action. Due to behaviors listed above my husband and I have just maintained that we will:

Except for groceries delivered to our car, drive thru pharmacy and essential doctors appointments we have made this choice based on how others choose to behave. No more going inside stores because there are people who go in not wearing masks and do not know what social distancing means. 

Everyone must make their own decision, however, if we are to come out of this sooner than later we all need to

Sunday, July 19, 2020

What To Do In a Pandemic


There are ways to be creative during a pandemic. You may be asking yourself why would I even want to try to be creative in these times? There are many reasons. Mainly, to help your mental outlook on life. Take a different view on the way it is in our world right now or for me, it would be risking going crazy (or at least crazier than I am right now)!

Before all of this happened and it became very real that we all had to change the way we live, it was easy to just say, "But I don't have time to do...." Well, now you do! Everyone is creative. All we need to do is find what brings us personal joy and just do it. Don't be an overachiever with this theory. Jot down some things that you have wanted to do and one by one try them, if only for a brief window during your day.

You may be working from home, alone or with a significant other. You may have children of all ages running around. Everyone will be different. Find what works for you. 

First things first. There are some things that I highly suggest we don't do. I have this list on a post-it note on my desk. It is for my own sanity:

  • Limit my news intake
  • No reason to hoard grocery items (What is the deal with toilet paper?)
  • As the British saying goes, "Keep calm and carry on." I just tell myself to avoid over-thinking and not to panic. Sitting around saying, "Woe is me," is not going to change a thing.
  • Continue to eat healthy and avoid eating when I really am not hungry.
Instead I have found numerous articles on how to fuel my own creativity. It actually works on making me more productive and motivated in other ways.

Some things that I was already trying and experimenting with I have shared in my blog before. My last blog had some pictures of some of the new recipes that my husband and I have tried out together. We have the time now to research new recipes on line, then share them with each other and plan our meals for a few days at a time to be sure to use the perishable ingredients. This means using Alexa to make the grocery list for our weekly Kroger pick-up.

A locally owned book store, Novel, has extended invitations out for Zoom meetings with authors. Readers can sign up and sit in to hear the author of a best seller talk about their book, their writing style, their motivation and will even answer questions that the viewers can put in the question box on the screen. It has definitely added to my 'to read' list. Everyone is in their own home. I am loving spending some extra time buried in a book. 

Along the same subject are some motivational webinars. Oprah just had a 4 week Zoom session sharing her wisdom and what she 'knows for sure.' So did Nataly Kogan, who wrote the book Happier Now. She was a traveling motivational speaker for companies until this pandemic hit. Then when the quarantine hit, she started a weekly sign up webinar on Zoom. She continues to inspire not only me but thousands of others. She has other means of reaching out to people through her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She even is the person who turned me around to finally getting back into my painting again.

Locally and nationally, musicians are turning to live performances in their own studios or homes to perform for their audience. That has been very entertaining for us, especially when it is someone that we know and have gone to see live and in person.

All of the above are free, however, there are ways to sign up for some on-line courses for fees and credits. It is a time for me to revisit my priorities. I was so close to finishing my book, at least to the point of getting it to an editor. When the world changed, it became hard for me to focus on putting the final twist to my novel. This is now at the top of my priority list to write a little each day. Somehow, I have managed to continue with my weekly blog, also my daily journal writing. Two different kinds of writing. A novel must be sequential and to know, especially at the end, how I am going to pull it all together. This takes focus.

Practicing gratitude has always been on my plate. Even having my gratitude jar, where I write a specific thing that I am grateful for each day. Spending time on FaceTime with loved ones help. Looking over some arts and crafts might be a good alternative and I have even purchased a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle to get involved with when the mood strikes me. At night, my husband and I like to search out movies and suggested TV series on Netflix, Amazon Prime or Disney. 

The only things that I have not taken advantage of is following my Tai Chi DVD, working on increasing my time on our recumbent bike and moving my skills along with a second language on my Rosetta Stone. I may have to go back and review my Spanish before I can move forward. That is ok. The big picture for me is to not overwhelm myself with too much at one time. Making out a little to do list each day and feeling good when it gets done. More importantly, feeling ok with myself if I don't. Move on. Our emotional health is not a bonus. It is a non-negotiable for being the best we can be. 

So for now, I follow the advice of the medical experts nationally, Dr. Fauci and locally here in Memphis. 

Mask up and social distancing and washing hands and limit outings, especially inside and more than 10 people. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Creative Healthy Cooking Has Some Great Benefits


During this pandemic that seems to just go on and on and on...there are some ways to have some benefits that my husband and I have discovered. We always have loved cooking together, as well as discovering new recipes. As we listen to friends sharing that they are gaining weight while being quarantined and staying at home, we were determined that we were not going to spoil our weight loss roll that we were on before this pandemic came along. 

It is so easy to just go to the pantry or fridge to grab whatever you want to eat, even when you are not really hungry. Both of us started taking stock of what we had already in the pantry and fridge. We read up on what is a healthy life style and we have stuck with it. During the pandemic we are more mindful of what we order at the grocery weekly and plan more meals thoughtfully so as not to waste fresh fruits and vegetables. Neither one of us can go by someone else's meal plan. It has to be set by us. We began searching out healthy low-carb recipes and sometimes we can substitute some ingredients in order to keep it a low carb meal. For example, instead of white flour, we use almond flour. 

This was a way to be creative together. The benefits we are seeing is by the pounds going down on the scale and even better? Clothes in our wardrobes are becoming too big on us. Both of us are wearing things that we have not worn in quite some time. It is a wonderful feeling to put on a whole new outfit. I am even discovering that some that I have not worn for quite some time are even getting too large for me. So I have had to purchase a few things on line to make up for what has had to go in a bag. 

The way that we started this was to read up on what is healthy for us to eat. We did not want to be on a "diet." It must be a "lifestyle." Diets will work if we stick to them but once we go back to eating what got us where we were, we will go back to that same weight again. Been there. Done that. Mindset to lifestyle!

People that I talked to that have been able to keep their weight off are aware of what they are eating. It is a balance. Cutting back on carbs is essential. Both of us did not know if we would be able to give up breads, pastas and potatoes. Guess what? We have. How? There are some low carb alternatives out there. Yes, most of them are a bit more expensive, but we don't have them everyday. It is just nice to give ourselves a treat of spaghetti and meatballs now and then. There is no problem with the meatballs or the marinara sauce. It was the pasta. Finding a low carb pasta on line was a dream come true, especially when we tried it and it was delicious. Same thing with bagels and breads. A toasted bagel or slice of toast  to go with our eggs and bacon just makes everything alright.

There is an app that we both use with our FitBit. All we must do is log in what we eat and it magically takes care of the net carbs, protein, fats (good and bad), calories, as well as other minerals and vitamins. At a glance, we can see what we did for the day. Keeping our carbs to around 20-50 a day is really not so hard. The next thing we watch out for is to eat enough protein, fats and vegetables. Each meal should have some of each. High protein also reduces cravings. Things like meats, seafoods and eggs are essential. Low carb veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, celery, spinach, tomatoes, brussel sprouts, asparagus, lettuces, and cucumbers are great additions to add to our meals. It is important to not buy all in one grocery trip. They are perishable so this is where the meal planning comes in to play.

This is a picture of my romaine lettuce that grows very tall, I harvest it by cutting about the top third off and it continues to grow in my Aerogarden. There have been recalls on romaine and I really crave it in my salads. I even wrap my hamburger in it, using it as the bun. So now we have pesticide free romaine and even better is that it is not recalled for e-coli. 

Healthy fats are also essential. We have switched to only using olive, coconut, avocado oils, and real butter. Avocados are also in the healthy fat list. YUM!

I do know that weight is lost a bit faster if you throw in exercise, even if it is not strenuous. I have some weights by my desk that I use and I love my DVD on Tai Chi. I really should get back to my recumbent bike. Steve has his workouts that he does daily also. 

Sometimes it helps to have a 'carb refeed' day once a week. For me, it has to be still in the high range of 50 carbs. I try to stick closer to 30. It has been noted by some scientists that counting calories does not really matter. Well, to a woman of a certain age who has hypothyroid, it does matter. Therefore, I do love my FitBit app that tells me how many I have eaten.

Another treat that I have given to myself is a Combo Meal Replacement and Loaded Tea. These are Herbalife dealers who have opened shops around the area and make their own specialties. We have tried a few of them but no one is as good as Wild Nutrition.

The small cup is the meal replacement shake. This one is called Bahama Breeze. It is 250 calories of protein. The tall cup is the loaded tea. This one is called Jimmy Buffet and it has added immunities and vitamins. The teas only have 24 calories and give you a boost for the day. I am loving that on the days we take our dogs to Doggie Day Care once or twice a week, that just a block over, we can stop and pick up a Combo for take out. Masks must be worn and the owners are so meticulous in following all of the CDC guidelines.

This is the lifestyle that works for us and we can see the benefits. Creative outlet for ourselves and healthier bodies.

Caprese Salad 
(tomato slice with slice of mozzerella drizzled with balsamic glaze)

Chicken Parmesan

Italian Salad with Salami and Mozzerella Pearls

Surf and Turf

Only a handful of some creative ways we have pulled teamwork together to help us get through this pandemic healthy. We definitely are far off from the Before picture and not quite to the After picture. We are work in progress and having fun doing it together. We tend to not think of the last picture as the after picture, more like the way our minds and bodies are set to live a long and healthy life.