Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What If?


What if you:
  • put aside your hurts?
  • suspended your "I don't likes..."?
  • treated your spouse/sister/brother/friend like a new acquaintance?
  • simply forgot about all the times before and started afresh?
  • did something for the sheer joy of it?
  • realise that you do have a lot to offer?
  • were afraid, but did it anyway?
  • followed your heart?
  • implemented one of these in 2010?
Are you ready to learn, change and grow?

Is this the year?

It becomes possible by activating the power within your heart.

Image courtesy of Cecile Graat.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Every Rose Has Its Thorn


Just like every thorn has its rose. This is the duality of life. There is good and bad in most things. Without the bad, do you really appreciate the good?

Likewise, with the things that make our life pleasurable. Too much of a good thing and the good thing becomes ordinary - it loses its appeal by virtue of becoming humdrum. We often end up taking it for granted, then.

I remember when I was about 10 years old, asking my mom why we couldn't have my favourite dessert every night. Her quick reply, "Because it wouldn't be special."

My mom was wise. She knew that serving that dessert on a regular basis would no longer make it a treat. It seems to be a condition of human nature that when those special things become everyday, we take them for granted and they lose their "special" designation.

This applies to people, too. How many of you are taking those who love and support you for granted?

With mindfulness or attention, you can become aware that this is happening. Remember to appreciate and value those good things and people in your life. In so-doing, you have activated the power of your heart, which is the key to undressing your stress.

Image courtesy of Jay Simmons

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Things that Go Bump, Pay It Forward


A couple of weeks ago, I was pulling up to the light in the left-turn lane, when I was hit by a driver who had decided to make a sudden lane change.

It was fortunate that no one was seriously hurt. However, it did require a few trips to the office of 6th St. Chiropratic and Wellness.

My car was repaired in an expeditious manner, thanks to ICBC and to the woman who willingly came forward as a witness. She is truly living up to her name. Thanks, Angela!

I am grateful to her and want her to know that she is now part of the Pay It Forward movement.

So, here is the deal:

I am offering an Undress the Stress™ Chat to the first 10 people who contact me through my website.

In lieu of the $40.00 payment to me, I would ask that you make a donation to your local Food Bank or Christmas Bureau.

An Undress the Stress™ Chat is a 20 minute session which is not counselling, nor is it a "tell all" session. You will learn one technique that you can apply anytime you are feeling stressed.

This will help stop the cascade of 1400 neuro-chemicals, so that you are in a better position to do and feel better.

It's the Reverberational Effect in action!

Related Posts:
Image courtesy of Christian Ferrari

Mouse Trap

I was a very happy little girl when Santa brought that Mouse Trap game one Christmas, so long ago.

Playing the game seemed to pale in comparison to watching the ball bearing roll along and effect changes along the way. One thing leads to another and another. Cause and effect in action, courtesy of the Ideal Toy Company.

This game is a good analogy for what happens to you when you have a perception, which leads to certain thoughts and feelings. Your body then responds with a host of physiological effects.

In other words, what goes on "upstairs" affects "downstairs", "inside" and "outside". Negative thoughts and emotions create a very different result in the body than do positive thoughts and emotions.

You are a system. Each part does not act in isolation from the others. It is empowering to know that you can have an influence over some of your "parts". For example, when you see how quickly your heart rhythms react to negative thoughts and emotions and know that you are contributing to stress-related symptoms and conditions, you'll want to take more care.

You'll get a more efficient and harmonious system when you start with the heart. Your system and you are stronger for it.

If you remember that Mouse Trap game, when it was set up properly, things worked as they were supposed to. Just like your system. Right?

What some people get up to! For a little bit of fun, click to see a live, human-sized version of Mouse Trap.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. This file is licensed under the Creative CommonsAttribution ShareAlike 3.0 License. In short: you are free to share and make derivative works of the file under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it only under a license identical to this one. Official license

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

With the Turn of a Calendar Page


'Tis the season to be jolly, or is it?

For a child growing up in the home of an alcoholic, any holiday season is fraught with painful memories of years gone by when the season was anything but joyous.

Even as an adult, living away from the situation, the alcoholic can still have a strong hold on how one perceives the holidays. For many years, I was unaware that just turning the calendar to “December” was enough to trigger a cascade of 1400 neuro-chemicals.

These reactions produce a host of side-effects that can leave us feeling anxious, worn out and unable to enjoy life. Their purpose is to prepare the body for flight or fight and if untransformed, can impact our memory, decision-making and problem-solving skills. They are not to be taken lightly. Cortisol, “the stress hormone”, is connected to a variety of serious illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and immune and fertility issues. These may not show up for decades, so stress is often over-looked as a link in the disease process.

Temptation Looms
Merry-making is ramped up during this season of peace joy, which makes it difficult for the alcoholic to avoid the drinks scene. Despite vowing to abstain or limit the alcohol intake, there is extreme pressure to consume. “Aww, c'mon, one drink won't hurt.” “It's the holidays. Live a little!” For someone who is addicted, it doesn't take much encouragement before they're raising a glass or the bottle.

This type of atmosphere is tough on everyone. It creates a state of hyper-vigilance or acute awareness, where one is always alert, wondering when the next big explosion will take place.

A myriad of emotions are felt: Disappointment - “Not again.” Hope - “This year it will be different.” Anger - “Why can't this stop!” Blame - “If only I were prettier/smarter/better/more lovable....”

Conditioned Response
Living in an alcoholic home means that there is a lot of conditioning that takes place, often at a young age. The amygdala is a small gland in the brain that is responsible for emotional memory. In prehistoric times, it allowed us to learn that the sabre-toothed tiger was a threat to our lives and that we had to beware or be eaten.

In an alcoholic home there is repeated exposure to fear-producing events, thus causing a strong association to things that remind us of that time. As we go through life, the amygdala continues to look for matches and when it finds something that is close enough, will prepare our body for the stress response – flight or fight.

The trigger is often imperceptible – it could be the sound of someone's voice, ice in a glass, a certain expression on someone's face or the sight of a particular decoration.

Unless we are aware that we are reacting to a trigger, we can experience a wide range of less-than-seasonal feelings which can include, but are not restricted to depression, regret, loneliness and anger.

Hope and Healing
For me, the awareness that my amygdala is looking for a match, of which the Christmas season means plenty, has made an impact upon my healing. Now that I know that a lot of the negative feelings are side-effects to the stress response, I can usually catch them in time and transform them with heart-activated techniques.

I know that the changing of the calendar no longer means "danger". I also know that the Christmas gatherings I now attend do not end in fights, nor does anyone end up in tears. I do not have to scan the faces of my loved ones to see what kind of mood they're in and how I should react in light of that mood.

Forgiveness
As I continue to practise these techniques, a surprising thing has happened. One day, I was thinking about him and realised that I no longer held the anger I once did for him. I had forgiven him.

Holding onto anger is exhausting - it is also stress-producing. That is why, when we forgive we are Forgifting Ourselves. Will I forget? No. But, I think enough hurt has come out of that situation. It was time to put an end to that.

Learning, Changing and Growing
This has been a process of learning and growing and one that I continue to use on a daily basis.

It also helps to know that I can have an effect on my “internal pharmacy” by choosing my thoughts and emotions. When I choose to activate positive emotions, I know that I am changing my heart rhythms – the smoother the heart rhythms the better I feel. The better I feel, the better I do.

When our mood changes for the better, all the little things that bothered us fall away and we live our lives in a way that is resourceful for us. We make wiser decisions and we are in a better position to share the gift that is ourself with others.

In an old pattern of thinking and feeling? Consider the fact that you've noticed what are you are doing and that you are looking to make some changes by replacing your old behaviours with new ones. Ones that allow you to transform your stress.

Related Post: Forgifting Ourselves

Image courtesy of Pawel Kryj.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

10 Reasons to Address Your Child's Anxiety

I love teaching these techniques to children!

They are so quick to catch on because they don't have to undo years of bad habits or self-talk. Once they're shown a better way to conduct their lives, they just get on with doing it.

I had the pleasure of working with "Lisa", a grade 4 student. Her mother called me because Lisa was exhibiting some signs of anxiety at school. (Before tests she would self-soothe by counting repeatedly on her fingers.)

After just 3 sessions, her mother was thrilled to report that she noticed a difference in Lisa's posture, as well as in her interaction with her sister. She was now standing her ground and not letting her sister bully her.

Math marks improved to an A and at the Parent/Teacher conference her teacher remarked that Lisa was now speaking audibly in class. She was also volunteering answers. She even stopped the counting!

When I asked Lisa about her experience, she said that she felt better about herself and her ability to do well in school.

Lisa continued with her positive shifts in emotions and behaviour and ended the school year on a high note.

Working with children is interesting because they immediately recognise the benefits of the tools and techniques and very quickly adopt them and make them work in their lives.

10 reasons to equip your child with heart-activated techniques:
  1. You are giving your child the key to access higher brain function by learning to calm the stress response. Your child is better able to concentrate on the work, as opposed to what is stressing them.
  2. To learn to improve test performance, students require Stress Smarts and Test Smarts, which has an impact on Facts Smarts.
  3. It is easier to nip bad habits at a younger age, before they become entrenched.
  4. Decision-making is greatly impacted when stress is not transformed.
  5. Your child is empowered by learning to trust his/her decision-making skills.
  6. Reacting to situations often results in poor life choices. They learn to be proactive in their lives.
  7. Cortisol, "the stress hormone", can be a contributing factor in a number of illnesses, including Diabetes, Heart Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Immune conditions and menstrual and fertility issues. These may not show up for years or decades.
  8. Improved relationships.
  9. They feel better emotionally, mentally and physically.
  10. You feel better!
Please click for more information about programs.

Image courtesy of Kim Vohsen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Surgery - Hot Under The Collar


This is a picture of what my neck looks like as a result of the surgery I had for Atlantoaxial Instability. Bone was taken from my hip and screws were put into my neck to fuse C - 1 and C - 2 (Cervical vertebra). This condition was diagnosed after the first of those four surgeries in what I call "The Year of the Surgeries".

End of 2005 and 2006 - the wait for my surgeries was over. It was like calling Bingo, but with four being the winning number. I had a total of twenty weeks (five months) of down-time. Casts, collars, splints and restricted movement until bones fused together and tissue healed.

For those who are curious, I've included a picture of what my forefoot looked like post-surgery. Warning - graphic image at the end of this article! If you are squeamish, read no further!

It was after Surgery # 2 - reconstructive fore-foot surgery (image below) that my surgeon told me that he refused to do the other foot until my neck had been fused. He was concerned that the intubation would cause serious harm.

Without having this looked after, my risk of stroke, blindness or death was very high. Incidentally, these were the same risks that could be precipitated by undergoing this surgery.

With the neck fusion surgery, I needed to have a conscious intubation. This meant that they would insert the breathing tube down my throat while I was fully conscious. I was cautioned by the anaesthetist to continue swallowing as this was put in. I was told, "Do not fight, struggle or pull it out!"

I knew I wanted to make this as quick and easy as possible, so I used my stress techniques to help me balance my nervous system. This kept me from panicking, which is a normal response in this situation and one the surgical team would prefer to avoid. Afterwards, I was thanked for making their job much easier.

I've had people say to me, "I couldn't do it." The point is, when you have to, the choices are minimal. You can choose to be miserable the whole time or make the best of the situation. It's about accepting what can't be changed. (Interesting how some situations are more easily accepted than others.)

There were times when the heat of the walking cast or the surgical collar were unbearable, especially during the heat wave that we had at the time. However, I knew that my recovery was progressing and that each successive week was bringing about an incremental improvement in my healing.

Below, (not for the squeamish, remember!) is a picture of my foot, post forefoot reconstructive surgery. The pins are put in place to fuse the toes. I am thankful I've had these foot surgeries as I am able to walk further and mostly minus the feeling of stepping on marbles.

I believe that my recovery time and surgical outcome were improved by balancing my nervous system. In response to the stress of surgery, blood pressure rises, heart rate increases and a cascade of 1400 chemicals flood the body, preparing it for flight or fight. Except in this case, there is no where to go - except the Operating Room.

By practising these techniques, I was much better at pain management, as I learned to shift my focus. Less pain, meant less tightening of muscles, which creates more pain. I was also able to get by with less pain medication, too. That was important to me.

Wouldn't it make more sense to learn to control the body functions that you can control so that you have the best advantage possible?

If you are scheduled for surgery and would like to learn some techniques to help you transform your stress, I'd be happy to work with you. Please contact me at www.auntiestress.ca.

Related article: Surgical Success - Activating Your Control
Related post: Forecasting...Knives...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Just Did It!

"Just do it!" In coining that phrase, Nike captured a philosophy - a way of living that moves you towards achievement or accomplishment and out of "I don't want to..." or "I don't feel like it."

We often make things more difficult than they need be. A lot of energy goes into thinking about why we don't want to do something, or how awful we feel about doing something, instead of just getting on with the task, whatever it may be.

I find that when I have something to do, jumping right in and doing it is often a lot easier than sitting around and creating a "script" about doing it. Usually that script is one that is more in the line of a horror movie, fraught with awful endings, which in no way matches the reality of "the doing."

For example, a few mornings, I did not want to take Murphy, our dog, for a walk. However, the longer I fulminated, the worse it became. The fact is that Murphy needed to go. My rotten attitude didn't change that, nor did it make me feel any better. So, I put on my shoes, grabbed the leash and away we went. Once we had established our pace, I realised how fortunate we were to be able to get out and get some exercise in such a beautiful park.

Life is filled with many tasks, some of them mundane, boring or time-consuming. Others move us closer to fulfilling our dreams and goals. When we are engaging in negative thoughts and emotions our heart rhythms respond in a very different way, causing our body to activate the stress response - flight or fight. This happens so quickly that we are often unaware of these changes and what they're doing to our health and sense of well-being.

3 little words that can move you. Learn to catch yourself when you are struggling with doing something (awareness) and then "just do it!"
  • Do you notice that the more you grumble, the worse the task seems to get?
  • Choose a chore that you normally grumble about (ironing, grocery shopping, filing receipts) and do it without the grumbling. Did it appear to go faster? How do you feel when you say, "Just Did It!"?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Heaven on Earth


Oh, Good Heavens! You've really done it, Gaelikka.

I don't, at all, feel qualified to write about heaven, nor hell, for that matter. So, I will leave that up to those who are better equipped to do so.

Instead, I shall write about a few of the things, in no particular order, that constitute heaven on earth for me:

  • sunsets and sunrises - endings and beginnings
  • clean, crisp sheets
  • a walk through an ankle-deep carpet of autumn leaves
  • friends and family gathered around a candle-lit table, laughing and enjoying a meal I prepared
  • dog-walks in the park when a quiet, steady rain is falling, the leaves are glistening in that "rain light" and the whistle of a train is heard from afar
  • fresh ground coffee, especially good when shared with a friend
  • a tidy and freshly-cleaned house. Ahhh!
  • a tropical beach, a cool breeze off the ocean, surf gently breaking and looking up into a blue sky strewn with fluffy cumulus clouds
  • working with clients when they "get it"
  • snorkelling in warm, sun-kissed water and enjoying the multi-hued ocean's treasures
  • a walk along quiet, mist-shrouded streets, especially in the autumn, when the smell of decaying leaves and wood-smoke tingle the imagination to carry one away to places in another time
  • listening to Blue Rodeo, one of my favourite bands, at an outdoor concert under an indigo sky, complemented by stars that appear to be twinkling in time to the music
These are some of the things that make my heart sing. How about you?

What are some of your - please click ?

Please visit the blogs of
Ashok, Conrad, David, Grannymar, Helen, Judy, Maria, Maria and Ramana to see what magic they've worked with today's topic, suggested by Maria/Gaelikka - Heaven.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Clocking Mess

No time. Later. Gotta run.

Is time on your side? Many people feel overwhelmed with their daily duties. As a result, their precious time is eaten up by inefficiencies. Performance, whether at work, home or at play, is impacted by stress.

The more stress you're under the less you seem to get done. You spin your wheels and take far longer to accomplish tasks that you would ordinarily breeze through. There's a proportionate increase in mistakes, which then take time to correct.

Your health also suffers. Stress affects your immunity and is implicated in a number of medical conditions. Anyone who lives with a chronic illness knows how much time is lost waiting in doctor's offices, labs and hospitals and recovering from the latest "roller-coaster ride" of your illness.

Take control over your stress and have more time to do what really matters to you. Yes, you can, by learning to activate the power of your heart.

The hands of time appear to speed up if you answer yes to these questions:
  1. Do you frequently get colds or the flu? Infections?
  2. Do you spend a lot of time looking for misplaced objects?
  3. Do you often forget things at home and then have to retrace your steps?
The clock is ticking, and so is your heart
Undress your stress, isn't it time to get stress-smart?

Photo: Flynt

Friday, October 30, 2009

Forecasting ...

"Knife Arthritis". It felt like someone was taking a knife and sliding it back and forth, up and down, right through the middle of my bones.

This would occur, usually, whenever there was a change in barometric pressure. Along with that weather change, would be an emotional change.
  • Fear - Oh, no...is this flare-up going to be prolonged?
  • Worry - How much damage is being doing to my joints with this one?
  • Sadness - It's preventing me from doing what I want to do right now.
Rheumatoid arthritis - I have lived with it for 33 years.

What does it feel like? I've thought of a few things that may help you understand what someone goes through when they have this disease and they are experiencing a flare-up.
  • Tightly wind some elastics around your fingers. Then, put some heavy winter mitts on your hands. Now, open a carton of milk, a jar or unlock the door.
  • Put some marbles in your shoes. Put your shoes on. Go for a walk.
  • Bend your knees. Apply duct tape vertically along the front and back of your knees. Now straighten them.
How was that?

A flare-up means the disease is active and causing inflammation. It also affects the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Oh yeah, and energy. It sucks the life out of you. Everyday living tasks not only hurt, but are also next to impossible to do. (Don't ask me to open a bottle of water, much less a Tupperware container.)

The pain of rheumatoid arthritis varies and can include, but is not limited to, some of the following descriptions: throbbing, aching, sharp pain and dull pain. That is the querulous nature of the disease.

One thing I'm thankful for is that my "inner weather station" seems to be malfunctioning. Since I've learned about stress and work daily on transforming it, my flare-ups are further and fewer between, I am better at pain-management and I have more energy. I don't seem to react to the barometric pressure as I once did, either.

It stands to reason, because the constant activation of the stress response wears out the nervous system and high levels of cortisol, "the stress hormone", is connected to a number of medical conditions, including immune disorders, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and fertility and menstrual problems.

If only I had known about this 33 years ago. I may not have had the pain, damage and surgeries. Like they say, better late than never.

That's why I started this business, to take people through this coaching program so that they can have some control over their "internal pharmacy", giving them more "fair weather" days.

Today's forecast: Note the stress on "today" - I am getting better at living in the moment. So much of my life was about fear and worry - past events and experiences which were dosed with a helping of creativity, magnified and then, projected into the future.

The way you think and feel is important for your "inner climate", which in turn, affects your "outer climate". What is the forecast in your world?

Related posts:
Image courtesy of Emre Nacigil

Please visit the blogs of Ashok, Conrad, David, Grannymar, Helen, Judy, Maria, Maria and Ramana to see what magic they've worked with today's topic, suggested by Conrad - Weather and Emotions.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Two Words Full of Heart

Thank you.

Some people have a great deal of difficulty in uttering these words, others say it with reckless abandon - without feeling or meaning. Then, there's those who are able to imbue those 2 words with care and appreciation.

Throughout our day and over the course of our lifetime, we fluctuate between all of those degrees of thank you. Until...

...you know that those two little words have a heart-full of meaning and a meaning full of heart. Feelings of gratitude and appreciation are good for you. You can actually see a change in your Heart Rate Variability - the way in which your heart speeds up and slows down.

When the rhythm is jagged, it means your system is out of synch. Like a car that needs a tune-up - you don't run as well.

One of the easiest ways to tune yourself up is to apply feelings of gratitude and appreciation. When you use them with in-the-moment techniques, your heart rhythms respond - they smoothen out and pull your other systems into synch.

What does that mean for you? Improved emotional, mental and physical health and well-being.

Isn't that something to be thankful for? I know I am!

Contact me to learn how you can transform your stress, improve your heart rhythms and feel and do better.

Image courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu

Friday, October 23, 2009

Heroes Take Flight

SupermanBatmanSpidermanFireballXL500RinTinTinLassie. (Repeat quickly, 5 times.)

It seems that, that's about the length of time today's super heroes last, regardless of whether they fly, swim, disarm, or morph.

A quick scan through the tv guide and it's evident that children are sorely missing out on the "When I grow up, I want to be just like _______." (See first sentence.) With the swinging door that is popular culture, today's hero rarely lasts a season. Incidentally, I think those heroes and their powers allowed the imaginations of children to take flight.

Who are the heroes of today - the ones that children look up to and want to emulate? Are they the "bad boys and girls", the crotch-grabbing dancers (When did this become acceptable?), the "Bling Bling" gang leaders or the Reality Show Wannabees?

Or, as my informal survey revealed, are they people such as, "Wayne Gretzky", "Obama", "My dad".

How wonderful if the heroes were those who have direct contact with the kids? An aunt, a teacher, mom or as my niece replied, "Dad." They're the ones who spend the time and model the behaviour that help to shape the next generation.

More often than not, they do not get the big headlines, appear on reality tv or command gigantic salaries - they are the ones who are there, behind the scenes, quietly cheering and gently (sometimes, not so gently) helping the young people take flight and reach new heights.

You don't need to fly, wear a cape or have super-human strength to make a difference and become an ordinary, everyday hero. In fact, you have everything you need to be that hero - ears to listen, eyes to see (and let them know they are visible) and arms to hug. Simple, isn't it?

Please visit the blogs of Ashok, Conrad, David, Grannymar, Maria, Maria and Ramana to see what magic they've worked with today's topic, as suggested by David - Heroes. Please join me in extending a warm welcome to our newest members - Helen and Judy.

Image courtesy of Ivan Petrov




Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Giving Up the Dead

It's been several years since I've said, "That just kills me." Also included in the pile of discarded phrases, "That makes me sick. - I'm so old."

In the past, I would utter these sorts of statements on a regular basis, without giving any thought to the internal changes that were set in motion by these free-flowing phrases.

Negative thoughts and emotions change your heart rhythms - they become jagged and send signals to the brain, which activates a cascade of 1400 chemical changes. All this, in order to deal with the stress and get you ready for flight or fight.

In this case, the stress is caused by your choice of language. Imagine that! The language you use can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It keeps you stuck and prevents you from reaching your full potential. There is an increase in stress when you use phrases that are non-supportive to your health and well-being. By training yourself to change your self-talk and choose more health-enhancing language you change your heart rhythms - to ones that are smooth.

Heart Rate Variability - the way in which the heart speeds up and slows down - was initially developed in the 60's to predict infant mortality. It is now used as a general predictor of health.

You can have control over your heart rate variability by becoming aware of your thoughts, emotions and language, learning why this is important and what to do about it and getting lots of practice with your target behaviours.

Smooth heart rhythms are good for you - emotionally, mentally and physically. So give up the dead and embrace the language that enhances your life - giving you more of what you want from life.

Photo courtesy of Rob Harry




Friday, October 16, 2009

Collections


Collections - reflections of a life gone by
Memories and objects, of things we hold dear
Some cherished, some discarded, some gone awry
Personal or public, it's all right here

Collections - reflections of a childhood dream
Rocks and dolls, stuffed animals and furry friends
Comfort or curiosity, building steam
Poof! Time is gone, they look through a new lense

Collections - reflections of a life well-spent
Photos and music, friends and family, too
Successes, mistakes, memories set in cement
Clear the dust, a final breath, time to renew

Loose Blog Consortium: Please visit the blogs of Conrad, David, Grannymar, Maria, Maria and Ramana to see what magic they've worked with today's topic, as suggested by Maria - collections/collecting. Ashok will not be joining us this week. Please join me in extending a warm welcome to our newest members - Helen and Judy.

Image courtesy of Margaret Young

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Diffability


Dear Oxford Dictionary,

As you are regularly in the habit of either expunging or adding to your esteemed tomes, I'd like to propose a word that was first brought to my attention by Carol Dunn on Twitter.

As she so eloquently stated, "We are all diffabled in some way." I concur.

Some of my random thoughts about diffability:
  • One person's strength is another's weakness.
  • It's the yin and yang of life.
  • It's what multiple intelligences are all about.
  • It keeps things interesting.
If the Urban Dictionary has recognized it - it's time for you to set the presses!

Sincerely yours,
Marianna Paulson

She's smart and she's artistic
That @Caroldn is also linguistic
For your safety, she deeply cares
Providing tips on managing your affairs

Carol is one smart, creative and caring woman. I am forever grateful to her for generously sharing her artistic and technical abilities. You can see her work of genius at www.AuntieStress.ca

Image courtesy of Jixue Yang



Friday, October 9, 2009

NOW!


"I want it NOW!" Most of us are familiar with the demands and subsequent tantrums of young children when they don't get what they want.

Instant banking. Cell phones. Fast food. Same day delivery. High-speed internet. Are we becoming conditioned to expect things immediately and if we don't get them when we think we should get them, we have our own version of a tantrum?

Meatball Sundae, Seth Godin's book contrasting new marketing with the old, brings up two important points, which I think contribute to our sense of overwhelm and affect our ability to be patient and tolerant when we don't get our way:
  1. Our time is precious and we simply do not want to wait. Force us to wait and we'll go elsewhere.
  2. Our attention spans shorten due to the increasing amount of clutter which surrounds us.
In his 1970 book, Future Shock, Alvin Toffler explains that "technology feeds on itself." Improvements in technology shortens the time between the conception of the idea and the distribution of the finished product. The process is hastened and we've come to expect more from ourselves and also, from our machines.

Toffler discusses the acceleration of change, which shortens the duration of situations and multiplies the number of roles we must play and the number of choices we must make in any given day. He goes on to say, "There is more switching back and forth, less time for extended, peaceful attention to one problem or situation at a time."

This overwhelming sense of too much to do and not enough time in which to do it can be a huge source of stress. Some people are well-equipped to handle this load, but many find that they are succumbing to the constant wear and tear on their nervous system. Our perceptions of the events in which we find ourselves trigger the flight, fight or freeze response. This leads to any number of concerns, including, but not limited to:
  • poor sleep
  • worry
  • frustration
  • anger
  • aches and pains
  • foggy thinking
"In general, the hair-trigger condition created by adrenocortical arousal explains why people are so much more prone to anger if they have already been provoked or slightly irritated by something else. Stress of all sorts creates adrenocortical arousal, lowering the threshold for what provokes anger," explains Daniel Goleman on page 60 in Emotional Intelligence.

Ironically, it is the word "now" that plays a significant role in how we can treat the source of our stress. In each given moment, we have the power to choose whether we will act or react to that particular situation. Becoming aware of the stress process and knowing what to do in order to calm the flight, fight or freeze response is empowering. Resilience is restored and one is able to take a more measured and reasonable approach to the encroaching march of time.

Questions for further thought:
  • Are you addicted to newer, faster, further, better?
  • At what point do you say enough?
  • Have you heard yourself saying, "I want it NOW!" for things that realistically, can wait?
  • How has your life been impacted by the increasing speed of the world?
  • Do you have skills in place to help you cope?
Loose Blog Consortium: Please visit the blogs of Conrad, David, Grannymar, Maria, Maria and Ramana to see what magic they've worked with today's topic - speed. Ashok will not be joining us this week.

Image courtesy of Frédéric Dupont.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fogged-in Parking Spots

"You cheated!" exclaimed a fellow-networker when she saw the prime parking space I had secured.

I simply replied, "Less stress!"

With less stress you notice more of the right things that need noticing. In addition to finding great parking spots, you'll be able to take advantage of those seemingly serendipitous moments.

Imagine that you are driving along a lonely country road on a dark foggy night. You lean forward in your seat, as if by getting closer to the road you'll be better able to see through the fog. Sadly, no matter how hard you change your position or squint your eyes, your vision will not improve until the fog lifts.

It is not uncommon for people to describe themselves as being in a fog when they are stressed. Stress diverts your attention from what matters to what is stressing you. Add in fatigue and other symptoms that are indicative of stress and things like parking spaces go unnoticed.

A tip to help you clear the fog:
  • Become aware of your thoughts and emotions. How often are you worrying, feeling sadness, fear or any other negative emotions?
For now, it is enough to notice your patterns without judgment. Once you recognize when you do certain things, you can learn some techniques to replace those behaviours and find those parking spots. Without cheating.

Related post: Right Place - Right Time

Image courtesy of Maxime Perron Caissy

Friday, October 2, 2009

Restaurant? Mais, Oui!

So many different angles to take on this week's blog topic. Do I write about the plethora of wonderful restaurants available here in the Vancouver area? Another possibility is to talk about the restaurants that we have visited in other parts of the world. I even began a post about the restaurant I would open, if I didn't have *SSWB Syndrome.

All week, I stewed over what to write. As Murphy's time draws near, my heart just isn't into writing...until we went for a walk. My walks with Murphy have always been a source of inspiration for me. As abbreviated as the walks have become, today was no different. A soupçon of an idea began to sauté...

The word "restaurant" comes from the Old French word restorer meaning "to restore". Food is that great restorer; not only of energy, but also of spirit. It serves to unite us during times of celebration. Many family, friend and corporate occasions are fêted with a trip to a restaurant or banquet hall. During times of grief, the preparation of food serves as a distraction. Sharing that food with others not only helps ease the pain but also acts as a balm to soothe the grief.

As wonderful as it is to eat at the tables of chefs of varying degrees of renown, some of my most memorable meals have been at the tables of friends and family. These meals are prepared, not for remuneration, but simply for the sharing of one's table and companionship. The truest sense of table-d'hôte.

Come sit at my table while I serve up a few of my meal memories:
  • Mom was always quick to offer a seat at our table, whether it be to the friends that I brought home from university, neighbours who happened to stop by or the workers who helped during haying season. It was never any problem to put another chair at the table nor to add additional items to the menu to ensure that everyone walked away well-satiated.
  • That "restaurant" gene has been passed on to my sister and brother. Whenever I visit - not often enough - the meals are nutritious and there is usually something new to tempt the palate.
  • A Ukrainian grandmother (Baba) meant that each week, we would have home-made perogies and cabbage rolls (holoptsi). When I reflect back at the perfection that came out of that wood stove, I am sorry that I took that all for granted.
  • Birthday dinners lovingly prepared by Mom, my mother-in-law or my friends. Thank you for taking the time and energy to put your love into meals and celebrating another year of life with me!
  • Whenever we would visit my aunt, we'd have "Kaye's Lunch". It could be the salmon my uncle had caught and canned, slices of cheese from the Dutch store, yesterday's roasted chicken, the last of the garden's gifts and blackberries we picked along the way, served up with some ice-cream. It was a clean-out-the-fridge meal - one we always looked forward to having.
As I finish this post, I notice that my spirit has been restored, simply by stirring up those wonderful memories. Those French were on to something when they coined the word "restaurant"!

*SWB Syndrome: Strong Spirit, Weak Body Syndrome - as in the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. In my case, my joints are weak.

Loose Blog Consortium: Please visit the blogs of Conrad, David, Grannymar, Maria and Ramana to see what is on offer. Thanks to Grannymar for today's topic - Restaurants. Ashok will not be joining us this week.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Zoom to Assume

What trouble lurks beneath the quilt of arghhh!ssumptions? Misunderstandings. Feelings that get hurt. Arguments that brew. Actions that are or are not taken.

We live in a fast-paced, sound-bite world, where it's easy to make an assumption or jump to a conclusion. After all, who has the time to clarify?

In our haste to save time, we end up losing more time. Rather than clarifying the message we cut corners by making assumptions about what the other person meant by their words or actions. As the popular joke goes, "Then the fight started..."

We may be afraid to clarify because we remember situations with different people where our attempts at clarification resulted in pain or injury of some sort. The amygdala is responsible for remembering strong emotional events that are pain or fear-filled and is constantly scanning for situations that are "close enough" to the original painful event. When it finds them, it says, "Yep, looks like that other frightening event. Get ready to duke this one out." Or, "Let's get the heck out of here! It's not safe."

The antidote is at heart. By learning to balance the nervous system with heart-activated techniques, the right course of action becomes clear. You may begin to recognize that you are in the habit of making assumptions. Once you know this, you can begin to correct it, if you choose.

Knowing what to say and how to say it becomes easier without the winter-weight quilt of assumptions. Kick off those covers and take heart!

Photo courtesy of Kinsey

Friday, September 25, 2009

Breakfast


Breakfast
Hot - Delicious
Appetizing - Energizing - Nourishing
A great way to fuel your day.
Cold - Salubrious
Break Fast

I thought I was done. Apparently, this next poem was percolating, just like my morning coffee!

First light of day, rosy and clear
Stretch, yawn, go put the coffee on

Break fast, I'll have an egg today
Vitality, more energy

Fuel for the body, fuel for the brain
Hot or cold, on breakfast, I'm sold

Sun is higher, light is brighter
Breakfast done, gee, I gotta run!

Loose Blog Consortium: Please visit the blogs of Ashok, Conrad, David, Grannymar, Maria and Ramana to see what they've done with Ramana's topic - Breakfast.

Image: Breakfast in the garden in Nice, France.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Songs in His Heart


In through the ears, straight to the heart and up to the head. Music has that ability to stir us deep in our core. It evokes feelings - regret, sadness, longing, joy and peace. It reminds us of beginnings and endings, of firsts and lasts. Music is emotional.

When I first listened to Pictures by the Damien Cripps Band, the scene was set in my heart and mind. A warm summer breeze, the light of day dimming into night and the lighthearted conversations and laughter of friends effervescing around me on the patio. The positive feelings that are generated by that scenario work wonders in my heart - turning my jagged heart rhythms into smooth ones.

I have had the pleasure of several cyber chats with Damien. What has become apparent to me is that he works hard at doing something he loves. And, as is true of all who are skilled at what they do, he makes it appear effortless. He is a kind-hearted man who honours his word. He also uses his music to make a difference in the world by performing at charity events. Thank you for caring and sharing, Damien.

I'm always curious about the creative process and asked him about his own experiences.

When and where do you feel most inspired?

"Usually the most inspiration comes from other people and their reactions to situations. This makes me think about my own personal reaction to that situation. It allows me to take a first person view-point when writing."

Do you need certain conditions in order to write your music? (mood, special place?)

"I generally find it comes in periods of about three months - where I love everything I write. Strangely enough, the really good periods where what I consider to be the best stuff comes when I am emotionally charged, either positively or negatively - it doesn't matter. High on emotion, high on inspiration.

Location-wise - I do like to be on my own and I have to absolutely love the sound of whatever instrument I'm using.
(He plays piano and guitar and 'will work out how to play anything.') Outside usually doesn't work for me, the acoustics of a room provide a sound and ambience that keeps an idea different and moving along. I can't create a place to write - they occur randomly. I usually start with a theme or concept, then toy with lyrical options until I come up with what I think is a great starting point. Then, I develop a melody and add the instrumental part thereafter."

When is a song finished?

"I know that I am done when material I actually want to explore further stops coming."

To paraphrase Damien, it is a force that cannot be called upon at will. The act of wanting it, actually stops it. I've noticed that in my own writing. When I am in the flow, it feels as if the words stream out of my pen, without intervention from the brain. This isn't the case, though. It is the brain operating as it should, with the guidance of the heart, encouraging cortical facilitation.


He writes. He plays. He sings. He will soon be touring North America. Damien, when you get here, I'm holding you to that cup of coffee you were talking about!

Related post: Reverberational Effect

Image courtesy Robert Proksa

Friday, September 18, 2009

Coping => Hoping => Renewing

Every Friday, members of the Loose Blog Consortium (LBC), post on a topic suggested by one of the members. Please visit the blogs of Ashok, Conrad, David, Grannymar, Maria and Ramana to see what they've done with the topic that was suggested by Conrad - Hope and Renewal.

My sister recently reminded me that for a short time in my twenties, I used to sign my name Marianna Lauren. What is unusual about that is that Lauren is not my second name. In fact, I don't even have a second name.

Now that I think of it, perhaps Hope may have been a more appropriate choice. I seem to have an abundance of hope, perhaps long after I should have given up on hoping.

Hope comes in many guises - big and small, private and public, whispered and shouted.

There is the unexpressed, yet understood hope I have for health:
  • cook nutritious meals from scratch
  • get enough exercise and rest
  • be aware of the need to protect my joints from further deterioration and dislocation
  • do what brings me joy by ensuring that my values are met in various ways
  • stay connected and be involved to the extent that is right for me
  • regularly transform my stress
There is the hope that I extend to others:
  • I wish you a safe journey!
  • Good luck!
  • Many happy returns!
  • I hope you have a speedy recovery. (Grannymar & Laurel)
  • My fingers (eyes and toes) are crossed for you!
Finally, there are the hopes and wishes we sprinkle over the things a part of us knows most likely will not come to pass, but we do it anyway, for good measure. I hope that:
  • by showering Murphy with love his cancer will go into remission.
  • I'll win that contest.
  • he'll do things differently this time around.
  • I can help my sister find a home for the stray cat that is in her neighbourhood.
  • I can ease some of your pain.
Hope is that thing that allows me to move forward, in spite of knowing that some of the things one hopes for won't come to pass. It's almost as if it's the breath in between - the one that allows you to come to terms with the realisation that some things won't come to pass. It's the make-peace-with-it sentiment.

It is also the holding of a dream - a wish that things will get better. And, sometimes they do.

Having an abundance of hope allows me to get out of bed each day and get through my day, when often doing the simplest of things (holding the milk carton, opening a water bottle or typing) can cause pain or can be a drain on energy.

There is a positive change in physiology with hope. This is the difference between the Stress Zone and the Stress-Free Zone. Positive emotions change our heart rhythms so that they begin to smoothen out. This signals the brain that there is is no need to activate the stress response - a cascade of 1400 chemical changes complete with side-effects that are necessary in a true emergency. Remember, our system dates back to the time when we had to catch our dinner or run from it!

Plain and simple, hope feels better. Having hope increases our ability to renew - whether it be our emotional, mental, physical or spiritual self. Sometimes we may want healing of one type, when it's another realm of healing that occurs.

Can there be too much hope? I don't think so. Hope is the pause that refreshes and renews. Some may call it denial, but I call it coping by hoping. Is it genetic? Perhaps. Can it be learned? Definitely.

I hope you will...

Count your night by stars, count your life with smiles, not tears. ~ Italian proverb

Image courtesy of 4younity.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The "C" Word

Last week, we received the diagnosis that Murphy, our dear, sweet dog, has bone cancer.

We've heard those words before. It'll be 10 years this November that Mom passed away from ovarian cancer. It seems that no family is untouched by this disease.

I did nothing but cry when we first heard the dreaded "C" word. I was immediately reminded of Mom's arduous struggles - 6 rounds of chemo and always the hope that this would be "the one" - ascites that had to be drained on a regular basis - hospitalisation for months.

10 years ago I didn't know the techniques I do now. Then, I spent most of my time worrying and eating my way through the grief, doing the best I could to cope.

This time, I'm doing things differently. After the initial shock, I now make a conscious choice to convert my worry and grief to feelings of love. As often as possible, I focus on the joy that he brings to us. This helps balance my nervous system so that I'm better able to cope with the tough times that will arrive.

It is also better for Murphy. He has always been attuned to me, so it is in his best interest that I effectively manage my emotions.

Our family and friends are saddened by the news and feel our pain. It seems that Murphy has managed to wiggle his way into their hearts, too! I've asked them, as often as possible, to think about Murphy in a positive way and shower him with love. I can see their faces change when I ask them to do this for us. That makes me feel good knowing that it helps them deal with this situation.

I am thankful that he is still his happy and curious self, even though we've had to curtail his walks. I am also grateful for the supportive care we're receiving for him.

We'll take it day by day, heartbeat by heartbeat.

Related posts:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Oh, Canada!


Every Friday, members of the Loose Blog Consortium (LBC) post on a topic suggested by one of the members. Please visit the blogs of Conrad, Ramana, Grannymar, Ashok and
Magpie 11
to see what they've done with the topic that I wrote on the blackboard (white board!) for this week - Your National Anthem.

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
I remember when we replaced "God Save Our Queen" with "O Canada." Shivers always run up and down my spine each time our voices unite to sing our anthem.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise
The True North strong and free!

I was both surprised and saddened to learn that with the 2010 Olympics, the phrase "with glowing hearts" was trademarked. In my opinion, our national anthem belongs to all of us, as do our lakes and rivers.

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

I loved beginning the school day paying tribute to this place I call home. Where and how are we to learn this glorious anthem if not in school? It's time to stand and guard this piece of our heritage and give thanks for all we have.

God keep our land glorious and free
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

If we, as Canadians don't do so, who will?

With glowing hearts we see thee rise
The True North strong and free!
I'm thankful that I live here, in such a place, where we are fortunate to have the services, the resources and the people we do.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
Yes, there are things that desperately need fixing. We need to find a way to work and stand together to maintain our standards of health, education and environment.

When I chose the topic Your National Anthem, I was unaware that it would fall on Sept. 11th - Patriot Day in the U.S.

Here's to those who have fallen. May you rest easy.

May those left behind find peace in their hearts.

May the people of the world also know a time of peace, a time of cooperation, a time of joy.

Photo courtesy of Alistair Williamson