Friday, April 29, 2011

Hinging on If'n When

"I'll be happy if I lose 10 pounds."

"When I close that deal, I'll be successful."

"I'll be loved if I can get 5,000 Likes on Facebook."

How many of the positive feelings you allow in your life are hinged upon a set of circumstances - a caveat - a big "If" or "When"? Do you purposely delay soaking in the joy of the now by slamming the door shut on the possibilities of being satisfied with and grateful for the present positives in your life?

Recall something that makes you smile or laugh. Take out your photo albums and revisit the people and places you've captured on film.

What have you noticed? Are you feeling a bit better? A lot better?

I've worked with stressed people who "have it all" - a beautiful, large home, a thriving business and vacations that many only dream of, yet still they suffer. Many think that feelings of happiness or joy are dependent upon more material things. Although, money can make your life easier, it doesn't guarantee that you'll be happier, or any less stressed. "There is a very small correlation between wealth and happiness..." states the author in Money Won't Buy You Happiness in Forbes magazine.

Are you able to be happy or content, feel loved and successful right in this moment? This doesn't mean that you give up working towards your goals, extinguish your dreams or quit learning. What you are doing is stopping for a moment to appreciate the who, what, when, why and/or how in your life.

Normal is what you experience on a daily basis. Normal doesn't have to be static, although stress can cloud your perception on this and lead you to believe that what you're experiencing as normal is forever. Practise making the shift into positive feelings and change your normal. Your life hinges on it!

What is your normal like? Are you able to appreciate all that is in your environment? Quickly now, what 5 things are you thankful for today? (Was there a long pause? This tells you something.)

Image courtesy of Neil Gould.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mirthful Monday - The Illusion

Curiosity is a wonderful stress undressing tool. Aren't you in the least bit curious about how the people at M.I.T. did this?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Honouring Earth Day - Running Towards Change

In celebration of Earth Day, I'd like to introduce you to Matt Hill and Stephanie Tait. These two remarkable individuals did more than just talk about changing the environment; they put their words into action. In a very BIG way.

Have a look:

I met Matt and Stephanie at Sixth Street Chiropractic and Wellness, before they wore out 30 pairs of running shoes which were kindly provided by Asics.

This winter, Matt was kind enough to answer a few questions.

How did this idea to runrunrunrunrunrun develop?

That proverbial light bulb moment happened while I was 27,000 feet in the air on my way to an animation conference. I received answers to long-asked questions on how I could give back to the world with my passion for running, people and the planet.

I realized I was going to run a really long way, for a cause very important for us all. I knew I had to ask Steph if she would leave her life as she knew it to help me change the world by running for it. Luckily for me, she thought my crazy idea was just sane enough; she not only became my chief co-founder, but also ran miles that took everything from her to complete. 

If we’d both known just how much we’d be stretched and challenged, far beyond what two self-described type A’s would take on, there might have been a second think on the whole idea. (I’m totally kidding!) Nothing would have stopped us once we decided to do everything we could to make it happen The wheels of destiny had been set in motion. We were stepping into an arena we’d been running and growing towards our entire lives. 

Did you have a role model?

Terry Fox changed my life at the age of 10 when I witnessed him on his Marathon of Hope across Canada. Night after night, my dad and I would watch Terry grit and will his way forward towards his dream and reaching his goal. In my opinion, he’s our greatest Canadian.

How did you keep yourself motivated during that very long trek? 

Our mission, the reason we were out there, is what kept me motivated and moving forward. There were so many human experiences along the highway. “Run Forrest, run!”, shouted from a passing vehicle, usually came at just the right time. 

We spoke to 35,000 kids in 220 school presentations. Their care and concern left an indelible mark upon my heart. While we ran, their energy lifted our feet and kept us moving towards the next event or mile marker. We knew they were rooting for us to make it to their town. Their ebullient energy helped coin the motto, "Small Steps Add Up!" It became our focus with the Top 10 Action Steps.

What did you learn about yourself and each other?

WOW! So many lessons learned in every area of our lives. It challenged and stretched us to limits we’d never even imagined. Learning how to break through comfort zones within ourselves, protect each other from doubt, and learn how to respect how each other worked under a lot of pressure.

All we’d known before about working hard for a dream beyond just ourselves was thrown out the door on December 9th, 2006. That was the day we decided to leave no stone unturned and to do everything we could to inspire a continent with our message of action for the Earth.

What impressions did you form as you ran through Canada and the United States?

Canada and America are AMAZING countries filled with AMAZING “local heroes” in every place we ran. They took us under their wing, fed us and helped us move forward when the tour RV would catch fire or break down. They set up school presentations, community events and even ensured that we had access to showers! 
(Try going 6 days and 6 marathons without one!)

Did anything disappoint you?

My ONLY complaint between BOTH our countries: Too many Big Box strip malls, and plastic bags and bottles littering the most amazing scenery!

What's next?

I’m back doing “base run training” as the next endeavour unfolds. Follow me on Twitter for updates. 

We’re granting the very first “R41P Legacy for Kids - Green Dream” this May 8th -  officially Run for One Planet Day in the City of Vancouver! All funds raised on our tour were invested with our charitable partner, The Vancouver Foundation. These funds grant a school’s “green project”, or what we like to call their “green dream”. 

Change is Growing

Matt and Stephanie are advocating a change in awareness, a change in habits. Signs that the world is seeing growth in this area are as evident as the green shoots pushing their way up through the soil that has "winter sleep" in its eyes. 

In 1987, my friend gave me my first green bag. It really was green and I used it for 20 years until it fell apart. I was often in a race at the checkout counter. I had to grab my groceries and put them in my green bag before the cashier loaded them into a plastic one.

Rarely did anyone use a recyclable bag. The cashier was not used to a customer bringing her own! Thanks to legislation and to customer awareness, that has changed. Cashiers have had the practice (established the habit) of using the customers' bags so they no longer operate on "automatic".

Customers are developing Earth Day Habits, All Year.

Tip 1: Place your personal shopping bags in the car where you can see them. If they're locked away in the trunk, it's much easier to forget them, as the habit has not yet been cultivated. (The same goes for your portable mug.)

Tip 2: Some of the new store-bought shopping bags are cumbersome, making them less-appealing to use. They don't fold up nicely and it's a struggle to quickly get them open for grocery-packing. I make my own, by creating a pattern using an existing plastic bag. They're guaranteed to fit on the bag racks at the store. My friends love them, too!

In 1936, Hans Selye, a Canadian researcher, defined stress as the non-specific response of the body to change. Given the changes we are witnessing in our environment, the Earth is also exhibiting signs of stress. It is important to note that it is not too late to change and learn new ways of transforming stress; both for ourselves and the Earth!

We are encouraged by Matt and Stephanie to remember that "Small Steps Add Up!" Change can take place, and it can start with a travel mug, recyclable bags or a walk instead of a drive to the store.

Related Posts:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mirthful Monday - The Perfect Man

Another surprise! My friend just sent me an Easter gift, complete with The Perfect Man.

How do I know? Well, it says so on the box.

He's sweet and decadently rich!
Just how a man ought to be!

Grannymar, maybe you need one of these. It definitely fits into one of your favourite themes! ;)

What would go perfectly with the perfect man? This song, of course.

Here's an article in The Vancouver Sun that will help perfection along, with a little fine-tuning on your part.

Ahh, perfection - surprises, chocolate and music! What small things spell P-E-R-F-E-C-T-I-O-N to you?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Treasure Your Pleasure Reading

More than once, while we were studying Shakespeare in high school, I was heard saying, "I can't wait for this unit on Shakespeare to be over!" I could never get my head around the language, the characters and that time period.

Until now.

One thing leads to another...

Last year, Laurel published a post that introduced me to Kate Morton. This new-to-me author has brightened many an evening of reading with her epic, descriptive-rich, continent-spanning tales. Laurel, I thank you for the recommendation!


I'm going to borrow her idea and blog about an author who has broadened my horizons and kindled (I can't say re-kindled because there was no fire in the first place) an interest in Shakespeare.

Karen Harper wrote Mistress Shakespeare, a fictionalised story based on her research into the life and times of that great poet and playwright, William Shakespeare. As she delved into his life, she came across compelling evidence that there was a second Mrs. Shakespeare.

It has generally been accepted that William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway. However, records of the time, as creatively spelled as they were, indicate that William may have been a bigamist. His handfast marriage to Anne Whateley supposedly took place prior to his shot-gun marriage to Anne Hathaway.

This 366 page, 5 Act book follows the adventuresome, creative and business-minded Anne from the first blush of youth through until the wisdom of the aged. Her great loves, William and the theatre, play a central role in shaping the woman Anne became.

This novel is well-researched and written, which on those terms alone, could spell b-o-r-i-n-g. Far from it. As I inferred earlier, Shakespeare has never looked so good! I was hooked after a few chapters!

The Treasures of Pleasure Reading

Just in case you haven't found a good enough reason to read fiction, here is a post entitled Eight Reasons to Read Fiction posted on the blog called Dumb Little Man. Bedtime reading has always been a wonderful way to draw the shades on the day, even if only for 5 minutes. It is the perfect non-caloric nightcap.

But, as it turns out there's more. Research out of the University of Sussex in the U.K. has shown that reading reduces the amount of stress one feels. How fortuitous that I found this on, of all things, That Shakespearean Rag - a blog that I will spend more time visiting.

There are many ways to undress your stress, but are they treating the cause or the symptoms?  I have been a prodigious reader for decades, yet my stress levels continued to mount. The techniques I teach have augmented my life. By regularly practising these tools and techniques, my heart rate variability has improved; I enjoy the balance between the two branches of my nervous system. This has paid off in quantifiable and qualitative results.

Treasure all those things that you love doing. Fit them into your life, if only for 5 minutes at a time. They help to restore you. Take notice how you feel. Are things improving? Staying the same? Worsening?

Do you have skills to undress your stress regardless of where you are? Or do you have to wait until your vacation, the spa, the gym or when you have time to read? You don't have to wait. Nor should you - your health and well-being depend upon it!

Image courtesy of Anu-Liisa Varis.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bruxism - The Grind of Stress

Bruxism - noun - the habit of unconsciously grinding one's teeth, usually done during sleep; often associated with stress.

As is often the case, the idea for this post came to me during my dog walk. As you can see by the picture, Holly has taken to logging! It occurred to me that this may be her way of dealing with the stress of encountering bigger dogs. (She is a rescue and her nervous behaviour indicates that she was never socialised.)

Watching her bite on her log, I was reminded about a Dr. Oz segment on Oprah. He suggests biting down on a cork to relax the masseter  muscle and the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). (I teach less obtrusive techniques to help you undress your stress when you don't want to put a cork in it!)

I wonder if Holly instinctively feels the change in her stress levels when she bites down on a log? Or does it serve as distraction, shifting her attention away from the uncertainty of encountering other dogs? Perhaps it's a combination of both.

Then, I started to think about how bruxism is often attributed to stress. A cause and effect scenario. Stress equals bruxism. What if it isn't the result of being stressed, but instead, an instinctive way to relieve stress? Dr. Oz's cork technique, but without the cork!

I believe that we all have an innate wisdom. We often unconsciously do the things that help us alleviate pain or stress. For example, what do you do when you have a headache? You probably hold your head or rub the location of the pain. Did you know that what you are doing is re-establishing neural connections between the body and the brain? It's also likely that you are hitting on energy points, otherwise known as acupuncture points.

Get curious about some of the things you do when you are struggling with emotional, mental or physical pain. Why do you do them? Have you since discovered that there is a physiological explanation? I hope you'll find it as fascinating as I do.

For decades, whenever I had a particularly rough day, I would brew a pot of Earl Grey tea. Later, I learned that bergamot, the essential oil that gives Earl Grey it's distinctive taste, is considered calming and restorative. A perfect recipe to initiate a balance between the two branches of the nervous system. I had unconsciously recognised that this cuppa' was just what I needed. (I'll need to quantify this experiment and see what happens to my heart rhythms.)

Does my theory that people grind their teeth as a way to alleviate some of their stress change things for you? It's subtle, but sometimes that subtlety means the difference between a negative and a positive - a shift in perception.

I'd love an opinion from Dr. Oz or a neuropyschologist, and you, of course!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mirthful Monday - Puns for the Educated Mind - Part 2

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other, "You stay here, I'll go on a head."

I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: "Keep off the Grass."

The midget fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.

A backward poet writes inverse.

If you jumped off a bridge in Paris, you'd be in Seine.

Friday, April 1, 2011

News, Quakes and Stress

The series of Japanese earthquakes, riding piggy-back on the one in New Zealand, have left the world reeling and struggling to come to terms with a wide range of emotions.

The barrage of news from a variety of sources, Twitter updates, and on-going discussions, seemingly with little resolution, has driven stress levels up. Way up.

In disaster areas, healing begins right from the time people pitch in to assist with rescue efforts. Unfortunately, when you're so far away, there's little you can do physically, which may leave you feeling powerless and overwhelmed.

Here are some ideas to help you manage your stress so you can feel more proactive in these uncertain times:

  1. The Red Cross, with it's long history of disaster and relief work, is accepting donations. Any amount will help. Here is a link to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

  2. Consider restricting the amount of news you watch. Read the news as an alternative.

  3. Children, who don't yet have the maturity to adequately process these worldly events, are also impacted. On-going television broadcasts, overheard conversations and rumours at school all feed their imaginations and as a result, their fears. (You know your children best. Trust yourself to recognise the signs indicating that they are being negatively affected by these reports.)

  4. Often, the news doesn't change much from hour to hour, so consider placing limits on viewing time. Afterwards, do a debriefing. This site provides you with some tips on how to do this.

  5. Be proactive and work together with your family to develop and practise an emergency plan. Check out this resource from the Canadian government.

  6. Although her focus is on the Pacific Northwest, the information that Carol Dunn has diligently compiled on 2resilience will assist and empower you with an excellent range of resources that cover all types of emergencies.

  7. Assuage some of your own pain by showering the people of these areas with love and compassion. I don't know if they can feel it, but there have been studies showing the benefits of positive thoughts, energies, vibes and prayers. Even if you don't believe in it, why not try it? It costs nothing except some time. Besides, it can't hurt and it may very well help.

  8. Ensure that you take breaks from the news. Reset your nervous system. Lose yourself in an activity you enjoy - a movie, exercise, a meal or a visit with a friend. You all know that the situation is critical, but immersing yourself in constant worry and fear will activate the stress response, creating more of those feelings you don't want. Do what you can from where you are (see 1 to 7), and then look after yourself, even if it is a minute at a time. Minutes do add up.
Image courtesy of Sanja Gjenero.