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Don’t Underestimate the Importance of your Emotions

I was raised in a home where the phrase “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all” was repeated with great frequency. While I’m sure that it was helpful for keeping a peaceful atmosphere among a family of eight, it did little to model, support and develop emotional health.

We are emotional creatures. Defining our emotions as good or bad and limiting the expression of them is a huge health problem. Our beliefs, thoughts and emotions all emit chemicals within our bodies that dramatically affect our physical functions. We can’t be fully healthy without addressing our emotions.

As a society, our models and expectations aren’t much healthier. Children are punished for expressing their emotions at home, in social settings and at school, as opposed to being encouraged to understand, explore, process and express them in healthy ways. Adults are often restricted in similar ways in work environments where anything other than a narrow range of emotions is viewed as unprofessional.

Emotions aren’t necessarily good, bad, inappropriate or unprofessional. How we express them can be, but few people develop the ability to understand and process their emotions, let alone learn to express them in a healthy way! And while the stigma around mental health services such as counseling are lifting, we are just scratching the surface of what might be possible.

For the past six weeks my life has been an emotional roller coaster. I’ve experienced fear, stress, worry, panic, frustration, anger, irritation, sadness, gratitude, awe, pride, hope, and so much more. The words we use for emotions fall short in expressing the range and depth of what I’ve felt.

I am often feeling multiple emotions simultaneously – gratitude and irritation, hope and anger… on and on it goes. I’ve worked hard to let it all flow, not judge my feelings as good or bad, retreat when I need to be alone to think, reach out for support when I need to talk, process or confirm my feelings, and just be the emotional being that I am.

I am sure that this is the best I’ve ever done feeling and allowing my emotions to flow. It feels amazingly healthy and freeing, even when the emotions themselves don’t feel so good. I’m proud and incredibly grateful for breaking old patterns and allowing my emotions to unfold. I’m finding that, as I let them flow, the discomfort of irritability and similar emotions passes much more quickly. Gratitude and hope return faster and stronger, and my body feels more open, healthy and strong.

Our bodies are complicated and depression, anxiety, addiction and other health issues are very real and multi-faceted. By no means am I trying to make light of these serious issues; but I have to wonder how they might be connected to our societal habits and expectations. And I have no doubt that the health of all our bodies could improve if we developed healthier emotional practices.

Emotions can create both discomfort and pure bliss. The world is a beautiful, messy place. All of it is a gift. My personal experience has been that suppressing anything uncomfortable also suppresses the more joyful emotions. This limits our ability to truly feel what love, joy, elation and excitement can bring into our lives, creating flatness or an inability to feel in its place. This is the most unsatisfying and risky place to be.

If our lives were steady and always blissful, it’s likely we wouldn’t recognize how blessed we truly are.

Stress & Self-Care

When major stress comes on fast and hard, self-care is often the first thing that gets dropped. Our bodies’ stress response maximizes our ability to think quickly and move fast, as stress was often a life-threatening and immediate need as humans came into being. It helped us stay alive and thrive.

 We are still programmed and designed to react to stress in the same way. And a body in stress mode is not digesting, repairing, detoxifying or handling all of the critical functions it needs to operate at optimal capacity in order to stay healthy over time.

 When stress is short term and recovery is allowed, the stress response is typically well tolerated in a healthy body. But when it continues for an extended period of time, you can really get into trouble. The more stress you have, or the more frequent your stressful experiences are, the more likely your body is to suffer. And if you drop your self-care when you’re stressed, you’ve just added yet another obstacle for your body to deal with! You can easily experience a breakdown in your physical, mental or emotional health along the way.

 The story I’m about to share is much longer than my typical posts. Normally I try to get to my point as quickly as possible, without missing any important details. But I’m sharing more today because life often happens in a more complex, layered scenario. And as a society we view the first layer as the most significant, dismissing how damaging what comes after can be, especially when viewed cumulatively, which is how stress can overrun your system.

 My husband’s recent stroke sent me into immediate, sky-high stress. I was in with a client when my son called me after finding him on the floor at home. I wrapped up with my client and got back on the phone with my son, who was now trying to answer the paramedic’s questions. I helped him answer their questions, went out to the waiting area and sent my next client home, found out which hospital my husband was being taken to, and called my other son to let him know what was going on. I called my remaining clients for the evening and cleared my schedule, closed up my office, then headed to the hospital with my son. Thankfully he was near my office when I called him, so he picked me up on the way. What a blessing since I was shaking so badly (stress hormones in action)!

 The ER team and surgical staff were amazing. They quickly assessed what was happening, patiently and simply explained everything to us, answered our questions and allowed us to be in agreement before quickly moving him into surgery. While we waited, I cleared my schedule for the next day and made calls to other family members. The shaking subsided and my head was clear, but my belly was completely upside down. Words cannot even express the importance and comfort of having my sons with me the entire time.

 Fortunately, the surgery went well and we then had a much clearer understanding of what had actually happened. The inside wall of a major vessel on the right side of Jack’s brain had collapsed inward, creating a partial blockage of blood flow. A stent was placed via his groin and he was sent to recovery. The type of stroke he had, called a dissection, is very rare and accounts for only about 2% of all strokes. The reasons behind it are not well understood, so we may never know why it happened.

 While in recovery, he appeared to have significant weakness on the left side of his body from the waist up. We were told he had an excellent chance of recovering fully, and felt relieved and grateful. I was not comfortable leaving his side yet and stayed overnight in the ICU with him. There was a chair with a foot rest in his room that I curled up in. It wasn’t very comfortable, but it could have been much worse. My sister-in-law found me extra blankets and pillows (she’s a nurse at the hospital), which helped tremendously. It was freezing in the ICU and the pillows provided some extra padding in that hard chair. We didn’t get much sleep, but at least I had the comfort of seeing how he was doing.

 The next day was encouraging as he was already starting to gain some strength on his left side. I had my son bring some healthy, organic food from home so I could attempt to get something into my stomach after 24 hours of no food and a very upset belly. I couldn’t manage much, but at least it was clean and without ingredients that would further stress my system. By the afternoon, I was comfortable enough with his condition to go home to shower and nap.

 I slept at home each night after that, but had my cell phone on and right next to my bed for many days before I was comfortable enough to turn it off. The EMF’s (electromagnetic frequencies) from cell phones and other wireless technology are a serious health risk, but so is not getting any sleep. Leaving it on and near me was a temporary compromise.

 I had late night conversations with my kids to process my emotions, sort through everything we were being told at the hospital and clear my head so I could sleep. I survived on organic rice crackers and organic brown rice noodles with olive oil and sea salt for days. I just couldn’t handle anything more than that. I drank as much clean water as I could manage, but wasn’t drinking anywhere near what I usually consume.

 A few days in, I had a difficult night. My chest was burning, which made it difficult to sleep and also felt like anxiety. My practitioner brain started to kick in and I remembered that when your body is in stress mode, it’s not in digestion mode. Thankfully, I always have digestive enzymes on hand as I never go out to dinner or travel without them. As soon as I thought to start taking those, my belly calmed down and the burning in my chest went away along with the feeling of anxiety. That confirmed that I had been experiencing severe indigestion and acid reflux.

 Jack’s strength was better every day, even without any therapy, and we were feeling very hopeful for an excellent recovery. I went back to work and started spending more time at home to keep up with life tasks like laundry and other chores. I thought things would start to feel somewhat normal again soon and was more relaxed.

 Acute in-patient therapy was recommended for Jack to work on gaining the strength on his left side back. Our insurance provider approved his stay for up to 30 days right away, and we thought we were just waiting for the paperwork to go through before he would be transferred from the hospital to the rehab facility.

 By Friday afternoon, after several phone calls, it became apparent that our provider and the rehab facility were engaged in a financial negotiation. I was beyond frustrated and angry to find that my husband was not their priority and was instead left waiting in the hospital while they worked out an agreement. And since the insurance company is closed over the weekend, there was no hope of resolving this issue until Monday morning. Jack wasn’t allowed to get out of bed on his own and they wouldn’t release him without a transfer to rehab, so he was stuck in bed wasting time that could have been spent getting him home.

 I spent most of Monday and Tuesday on the phone with our insurance provider and the rehab facility. I was led to believe the negotiation was still ongoing and felt hopeful that it would resolve soon. To say that I was stressed beyond belief is an understatement. I was actively working to be polite and diplomatic on the phone, but was seething inside. I lost it on Tuesday morning and just sobbed uncontrollably from all the frustration and pent up emotions.

 By Wednesday it became clear that there was no give on either side, and little hope for any agreement. I won’t even get into the details of how ridiculous and counterproductive the whole situation was, especially from a money saving perspective, as my husband remained stuck in the hospital racking up bills. At that point, our insurance provider decided to find another rehab facility that accepted their reimbursement rate right away. It didn’t provide the same daily hours of therapy, but given how well my husband was already doing, I wasn’t concerned that it would interfere with his progress.

 The paperwork and contracts were going back and forth but hit a snag somewhere along the way. It was down to the close of the business day on Wednesday when a last-minute, frantic phone call from me, pushed everyone to quickly finalize it all. He was transferred an hour later, much to our relief, after almost a full week of working towards that!

 We joined him at rehab to get him settled in. The facility is an older building which is also part nursing home, so the atmosphere left a lot to be desired. But they got him into therapy the next day and it quickly became clear that none of the different therapists were seeing any significant strength or mobility issues. After the weekend, and hearing multiple reports of how impressed the therapists were, I started working on getting him home. There wasn’t any fighting or bureaucratic details to struggle with this time. He just needed to wait for the doctor to see him and sign off on his release. He had arrived on a Wednesday evening and I brought him home the following Thursday afternoon.

 And that’s where you would think the happy ending would start, right?

 His first day at home went well. He went out to a few stores on Friday morning and spent some time on the computer catching up on his favorite pastimes in the afternoon. He was in good spirits but really tired by the time I got home from work in the early evening.

 Friday night or Saturday morning, his right hand became very swollen, itchy and painful. He was incredibly fatigued and unable to do much of anything. The hand pain interfered with his sleep and all of it made him miserable. It appeared that he was having a reaction to the medications he’d recently been prescribed. He was afraid to take the meds and stopped for two days, knowing we had a follow up with his primary on Monday morning.

 We restarted one of the medications and that has been going well. The second medication was added in a few days ago at one quarter the original dose and is going okay so far. His fatigue is still debilitating. We’ll discuss all of it with the neurologist in a few days.

 That weekend, once again I thought we were moving on. My kids were resuming more normal schedules and were out and about, so I was mostly on my own at home trying to catch up. By Sunday afternoon I was exhausted, even though I hadn’t been pushing myself or neglecting my self-care. We were in need of groceries, so I headed out to the store with a cup of organic green tea in hand. I figured I was just having an afternoon slump that would pass. By the time I got home, I was an irritated and exhausted mess. In hindsight, it would have been better to reschedule my plans and have stayed home and rested. Several days later, I was struck with a cold – ugh, more stress!

 The cold was no surprise. I’ve experienced this in the past and know that it’s typical to get sick after dealing with significant stress. But it adds even more stress to life and I’m more than ready for the cycle to break!! Life happens and some stressors are unavoidable. The way you take care of yourself during a crisis can make all the difference in how you get through it all.

 Here are some important things to focus on:

  • Eat clean and healthy
  • Stay hydrated
  • Don’t neglect sleep and rest
  • Accept support
  • Process your emotions
  • Minimize any non-essential tasks
  • Minimize contact people who add stress
  • Indulge yourself if you can

 Monthly massages and periodic organic facials are currently part of my self-care regimen. I maintained those appointments and they helped SO much! I treated myself to a yoga class, an infrared sauna session and a salt room session, all of which I had Groupons for that were just waiting to be used. I tend to hold my stress physically and get really uncomfortable, so these extra self-care steps helped tremendously (and felt like a luxurious treat at the same time).  

Self-care is not selfish, it’s smart. You need you, and so does everyone else. Don’t let yourself fall apart. Take care of yourself and get the support you need. You deserve it!

A Scary Reminder…

A Scary Reminder…

I’ve never felt that my health is unshakable. I get sick with colds and flus from time to time like everyone else, which is a natural, unavoidable part of having a healthy immune system that is constantly expanding its knowledge and defenses against the multitude of germs we are constantly exposed to.

We are living in times of unprecedented risks to our health and an alarming number of stressors and threats such as chemicals in our food, water and environment, busy, stressful lifestyles, noise and light pollution, lack of connection to nature and natural light, a deficit of nutrients even in our best quality food, lack of sleep, sufficient time to relax and heal, and so much more.

This is why I control everything I can to the best of my ability from day to day. But I know that my health is still at risk due to the things I can’t control. If I do succumb to a health threat, I believe I will find peace knowing that I did an excellent job with my self-care. And my chances of recovery will be far greater because of my choices and the strength of my body, mind and spirit.

It’s incredibly difficult for me to see the people that I love choosing differently. I want them to experience the same benefits of excellent health. But the deeper truth is much more selfish. They are such an important part of my life that I want, need and depend on them, and they are a huge part of my healthy life. When they suffer, I suffer too.

At this very moment, my husband is lying in a hospital bed awaiting transfer to an inpatient rehabilitation facility to receive physical, occupational and speech therapy after having a stroke a week ago. There were no warning signs. He had been in good health and doing his normal activities. He’d been out with his brother in the morning and had been stacking wood and doing yard work a few days prior. His heart appears to be fine and his blood vessels are open with no signs of plaquing.

While we are getting conflicting reports, it appears that he had a partial collapse of the inside lining of a major blood vessel in his brain, causing a partial blockage of blood flow. He now has a stent in that vessel to keep it open. He had a blood clot, but we were told that it appeared as they were placing the stent, and not before. The reasons for this vessel collapse, or dissection, are not well understood, so it’s all a mystery at this point. (But I’ll be researching on my own later to see if I can find some clues. My practitioner brain needs to know.)

We feel extremely lucky as there are no signs of major damage, and it’s very likely that he will be able to recover most, if not all, of the weaknesses that are currently presenting in his left arm and that side of his face. The emergency room staff and surgeons were amazing and I’m so grateful for their speedy attention, expertise and kindness towards us.

Over the years of our marriage, my husband has made many great improvements in his lifestyle. I’m very proud of him and so grateful for his efforts! He even retired early last year after coming to terms with the fact that his overly stressful job was taking its toll. I’ve been encouraging him to work on a few things, like drinking more water, and am constantly tweaking his whole food supplementation protocols. His attention to his health isn’t as strong as mine. I work hard to respect his freedom of choice while sharing my concerns and knowledge.

Now I’m praying for the best possible recovery, and hoping he’ll have a renewed commitment to protect and improve his health. I’m so grateful for the strength and health he had going into this, knowing the outcome could have been very different.

I feel strongly that the best advice I can ever give is to prioritize your health right now. If you’ve already faced a health challenge, I doubt I need to convince you how critical it is. But when you feel fine, it’s easy to focus on other things that seem more pressing. But you are the irreplaceable ingredient in your life and you deserve the best. You cannot live your best life without excellent health.

The Truth at Last: Round Up Can Cause Cancer

The Truth at Last: Round Up Can Cause Cancer

 Long before my personal holistic healing journey began, and prior to being a holistic practitioner, I was already wary of chemicals. This seemed to be an intuitive, common sense inquisitiveness rather than something I learned. When I was pregnant with my first son and moving into a newly purchased home, I specifically remember asking my husband not to use any chemicals on our lawn. I knew our son would be out in the grass soon and applying chemicals that kill weeds or bugs seemed like it would be a threat to our child as well. I didn’t research this or know if it was true, but I trusted my instincts and thankfully my husband agreed. 23 years later, our yard is still chemical free. It supports wildlife that we treasure, as well as an organic garden.

Along my healing path, my intuition evolved into an educated understanding of how chemicals challenge our health and interfere with our body’s ability to function optimally. As a result, I’ve removed toxins from our home and personal care products, as well as from our food, and counsel others on how to do the same. Sadly, chemicals are everywhere and many, many people are not aware of their exposure to these harmful substances, especially in our food supply. But on 8/10/18, one of the world’s biggest offenders lost a court battle and is being held accountable for the cancer that a school groundskeeper, who used their products extensively, developed.

Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, the pest control manager of a San Francisco Bay Area school district, sprayed Round Up and a similar product extensively as part of his job. These products are herbicides or weed killers. Johnson shared how he would get covered with these chemicals when the wind was blowing and how a hose once broke and his whole body got soaked. When skin rashes appeared, Johnson reached out to Monsanto, the maker of these products, and asked if his skin issues could be related to the products he was using. He did not receive a reply and continued to spray.

He read the label carefully and reached out to the company on another occasion, with no response. At age 42, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. 4 years later, he has won the trial of a lifetime. Tragically, it appears that Johnson only has a few months to live. I am deeply indebted to him for his bravery in pursuing legal action against a powerful giant like Monsanto, and am incredibly grateful for the lawyer who fought for him and the jury that deliberated over such an important case.

During the trial, Monsanto’s ugly deeds were exposed. They knew that their products could cause cancer and other health problems and covered up that information with great intention. They’ve suppressed evidence, created false studies and harassed anyone that tried to present the truth. Court documents also reveal a possible collusion between the EPA and Monsanto to aid in covering up the cancer risks of Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Round Up. So, the very agency we all pay to protect us from such atrocities was likely in on, and aiding in the cover up.

But now, the truth has come out and the court awarded millions of dollars to be paid by Monsanto. The Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge on CA’s listing of Glyphosate as a cancer causing chemical. And thousands of cancer victims and their families have filed additional lawsuits claiming Monsanto knew about the risks and failed to warn them.

I pray that the tides are finally turning and that Monsanto will be held accountable for all the human suffering they’ve caused. But they’ve been powerful for a long time with lots of tricks up their sleeve, so I fear that they will find a way to slip out of it all somehow. Bayer has recently acquired Monsanto, so removing the Monsanto name from everything could be part of their tactic.

I will continue to avoid these products and keep up with trusted sources to watch this saga unfold. I know my exposure to Round Up will be far less that Johnson’s, but I will honor the part of me that suspects it can be harmful in any amount. I will protect my body as best as I am able to. A bottle of Round Up will never enter my home. But what I believe is even more important, is to avoid Round Up in the food I bring home, which is one of the many reasons why the food we eat at home is almost always 100% organic.

Many non-organic crops like wheat and oats are sprayed with Round Up just before they are harvested. This desiccates or wilts the plants, making them easier to harvest. But the Round Up saturates all parts of the plants, including the edible parts. Most Americans unknowingly eat Round Up every day, some with every meal!

The Environmental Working Group just release independent study results for some common breakfast choices and found Glyphosate (the active ingredient in Round Up) in 43 of the 45 non-organic samples. Sadly, even 5 of the organic samples tested positive for Glyphosate, but at lower levels. While Glyphosate spraying is not allowed in organic food production, the rates of Round Up spraying have increased tremendously since 1996. It’s now pervasive in our environment and showing up even in places where it’s not being actively used. Organic is still a better choice to reduce your exposure (and for SO many other reasons), but I am praying for a day when the spraying will stop and the ground is allowed to recover.

The cost of these, and other chemicals, in human suffering and environmental damage is unimaginable and won’t stop anytime soon. But I am holding onto hope that the tides are finally starting to turn with this historic court case and that a safer, healthier future awaits all of us.

Come See Inside My Fridge!

Come See Inside My Fridge!

Anytime I am making changes in my life I find it helpful to have examples to get my brain thinking of the possibilities. So I’d like to invite you to see inside my fridge, hoping you’ll find some inspiration for what to have on hand and prepare for yourself.