Tag Archives: meditation

The countdown begins…. part 2

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So, last night I was having a wee pity party. Just feeling generally down and discouraged. Then I received the following on my FB wall:

“As your new year begins, you are aware of the possibilities and all your goals and dreams for what is to come. Old habits may resurface briefly as a resistance to change, but be kind to yourself in those moments then bravely move forward into your wonderful new year.”

Of all the kind words and lovely greetings I received today, this one meant the most to me. I needed that reminder to be kind to yourself. This same person recently told me that he thinks I’m a very kind person. And, I suppose it’s true. I do kind things for people; this is how I was raised, it’s just what you do. Like when someone is in pain, sick or injured and can’t get to the store to get some pain relief, you take it to them. Or when a friend is sad, you call them up to say hi. These are just kind things you do. Being kind to others feels good, and it’s good for the soul.

But you know what? I’m willing to guess that a lot of people are kinder to strangers than they are to themselves.

If a friend of mine were to do something to upset or offend me, I’d forgive her. I’m kind to complete strangers: letting someone merge ahead of me in traffic; holding doors open; even just smiling at a complete strangers. I bet you can think of at least one instance in the last 24 hours in which you were kind to someone. If not, shame on you. Don’t be such a grinch, go do something kind, now!

But how many of us are that kind to ourselves? How many of us treat ourselves with loving kindness when we mess up, or are hurt or feeling down? I know I’m not.

And that’s where the pity party last night came from. I haven’t been taking care of myself, and, rather than being kind, I was really hard on myself. The thing is, if someone you knew was consistently not kind to you, you wouldn’t hang around them. You’d, in fact, most likely distance yourself from them. Unfortunately, you can’t distance yourself from, well, yourself.

It’s easy to look for the good in others and respect their journey. Why is it so hard to treat ourselves the same way?

I’m wondering if it has something to do with fear. Every time I’m “stuck” in my life, it seems it’s because of fear. And then, once I face those fears, I am able to overcome obstacles and see my life move in a positive direction. So, what am I afraid of? I have a few theories, but they’re a bit too private to share here.

I do know this: I need to be kind to myself, to accept myself and treat myself with compassion. That’s just my gut feeling about this whole thing. Gut feelings are good, but it’s always nice to have science to back you up. This is a great article on the importance of self-compassion. The author, Dr. Melanie Greenberg, cites the work of Dr. Kristin Neff, a researcher from the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Neff contrasts self-compassion with self-esteem (which she purports is “based on evidence of superior achievement”), defining it as ” a more constant personal quality, in which we value ourselves and treat ourselves kindly just because we are human,” and views mindfulness as a key element in self-compassion. Dr. Greenberg writes, “The essence of self-compassion is to acknowledge our own emotional suffering and then deliberately comfort ourselves by generating feelings of warmth, softness, and care towards ourselves and, by association, all living beings who are suffering.”

While reading the words “generating feelings of warmth, softness and care towards ourselves,” I thought to myself, “gee. I bet that would feel better than a donut.” And then I kept reading….

Can Self-Compassion Make Me Healthier?

A 2007 study by Neff and colleagues suggests that self-compassion may be an important tool in weight-management and overcoming emotional eating. Students were given donuts to eat and half were assigned at random to hear a compassionate comment from the experimenter, such as ‘Don’t beat yourself up about eating these; subjects eat them all the time.” The other half received the donuts without the comment. Later that day, when given the chance to eat candy, those who heard the compassionate comment ate less. Therefore, self-compassion may help to prevent emotional eating resulting from feeling bad about breaking dietary restriction rules. Future research is needed to look at whether these benefits are also found in clinical populations such as obese people or those with eating disorders.”

So, point taken. Being kind to myself can help me on this journey. And I know, for a fact, that I’m already a kind person. Time to be kind to myself.

How are you kind to yourself?

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Stress

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Today was kind of a stressful day. I had a few money issues to deal with after work, and I could feel my stress levels rising. Really, it was no big deal – just a few minor things that needed taking care of… but when you throw an anxiety disorder into the mix, a minor thing can quickly trigger an anxiety attack. And for me, that means eating, because I use food to soothe my anxiety.

I know that stress causes weight gain. There are a lot of studies out there that indicate that when you are stressed, your body releases cortisol to deal with the stress. This chemical helps regulate how your body releases and stores fat. Did you know that increased cortisol levels can lead to increased cravings for sweet and fatty foods? (C’mon – who hasn’t  eaten a chocolate bar when stressed?!? ) Here’s a really informative article about the effects of stress on weight gain:

Stress Cortisol Connection

So there I was, renewing my car insurance and trying to deal with some banking stuff. At the best of times this is a minor annoyance, but with everything else that’s been going on in my life, it brought on a wee bit of anxiety. Granted, not a full-blown anxiety attack, but enough for me to notice physical symptoms. Shallow breathing, increased heart rate, difficulty focusing, that sort of stuff. Once again, I proudly drove right past Starbucks, Tim Hortons and a dozen other yummy places, and focused on what I could do once I got home. (My word, 152nd Street in Surrey has a lot of places to eat!)

I knew that if I didn’t make a plan, I would come home and eat anything and everything in site. I knew I didn’t want to do that. I couldn’t trust myself to go to the grocery store to pick up something healthy, as I just wasn’t in that mind set. I knew I had some leftover spaghetti and meat sauce in the fridge. Not the healthiest thing in the world to eat, but I figured it beat binge eating when I was feeling anxious.

As soon as I got home, I warmed up the leftovers and sat down to eat. I’m trying to be more mindful and aware of my food consumption, so I kept the TV and computer off (and my phone as well… always a major distraction for me). While I was eating, I began thinking about the connection between stress and weight gain. I realized that the high-carb meal before me was probably going to be converted directly into fat cells. Oh well. At least I didn’t binge.

This got me to thinking: maybe I shouldn’t eat when I’m stressed. If there are chemical reactions occurring in my body when I’m stressed, and these chemicals promote fat build-up, perhaps I should find another way to deal with stress.

The only thing I can think of is exercise and meditation. I really need to add more cardio to my week. I’m good with the 5am yoga (although lately, I haven’t been focusing as much – I’ve been going through the motions, but not with real intent). A cardio workout increases levels of all of those “feel good” chemicals, which probably do a good job counteracting the stress-induced cortisol.

I’m really really good at making excuses when it comes to cardio. “I’m too busy tonight,” “The kids have something on the go,” “I’m too tired” and so forth. This has to stop. I am never going to be “Fit by 40” if I don’t exercise. 5am yoga just ain’t enough. Lately, I’ve found myself thinking “Ah, just wait until summer break. You’ll have two months off, you can exercise then.”

Yeh. Nope. Just another excuse. Doesn’t cut it. No good.

If I truly want to be fit before my 40th birthday (just, gasp, 54 short weeks away), I need to change my habits, change my mindset. My ex-husband was always fond of saying that, “it takes 21 days to create a new habit.” (Funny thing is, he’d start something new, and quit within 14 or 15 days! I don’t remember him ever making it to that 21 day mark.)

I need new habits. How can I make cardiovascular exercise part of my daily routine? A workout partner comes to mind, but it seems that all of my friends are either too busy, or a lot more fit than I am… there’s no way  I could keep up with some of my fit friends.

The other habit I need to establish is regular meditation. I need to deal with stress and anxiety in healthier ways. I need to find a way of truly understanding that I am in control of my life and my health, and it’s not controlled by stress and anxiety.

 

If anyone has any suggestions, ideas, or things that have worked for them, please share them in the comment section. I know that there are other people who read this blog who are going through similar issues as I am, and it would be a great help!

Thanks 🙂

May 10, 2012: Meditation

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Almost every morning for the past few weeks, I’ve been getting up at 5am to do a short yoga workout before starting my day. At first, it was a real chore to get out of bed and try to bend myself into a pretzel. The getting out of bed part is definitely getting easier. Bending […]