The holidays are a time when many of us are on overload from too much rushing, party-ing, shopping, being with others who we may or may not connect with.  This can be a very energizing or draining time of year – depending on your perspective.

NEWSFLASH:  life gets better when we spend time in person with people we love.  How’s that for stating the obvious?

I’ve noticed it is harder and harder to connect in person with my friends.  Many of us spend a lot of time working.   We’re on the internet,  busy at home or on the phone. 

How about you?  Have you noticed that it’s easier to email someone  than to call them?  Is it simpler to call them rather than get together in person?   I’m guilty of calling people knowing I’m unlikely to reach them just so I don’t get “stuck on the phone” – and I’m probably not the only one who does this. 

I believe that as technology has made our world smaller, it has also increased the gap of getting together with people in person.  At least, that’s what’s true for me.

For some relationships, getting in touch with them to make plans  has become such a cumbersome process that I’ve stopped doing it altogether.  Why?  Because it takes too much time and energy to (a) reach them; (b) come up with a date on my own calendar; (c) coordinate our schedules and (d) figure out what we want to do. 

Does anyone come to mind when I say this?

There are a couple close friends that live nearby where reaching them is less complicated.  If they’re not available when I call, they return my call or email me promptly.  Our schedules jive naturally and no matter how much time has gone by, we pick up right where we left off. 

Some of you may have read of my recent struggles with insomnia.  Well, I put one more piece of the puzzle together last week after having dinner with two close friends of mine. 

Connecting with others who love and appreciate me over dinner helped me cross the hurdle of insomnia and get some serious sleep.  I came home and slept that night, the next and every night since then.  I really believe that that limbic system connection was nourishing on a deep level to me.

So, one of my favorite questions to ask myself is “what can I learn from this and how can I use it in a pro-active way?”

What I learned is that it really helps to get together in a relaxed way with people I love. . . . the key ingredients for me are having a couple hours that are mutually convenient.  That’s it – very simple recipe.  Having it come together naturally is a bonus.   

I invite you to consider who you really enjoy being with and – if you can’t be with them soon – contact them and see when you can spend some time together that works for both of you.  Maybe you’ll need to wait til after the holidays to even check your calendars to see what’s possible.  But, there’s something about having a plan in the works that can be exciting and rejeuvenating in and of itself.

What do you think?

Turning off your mind is not such a simple thing to do.  Ask anyone and that’s pretty much a no brainer (pardon the pun!).

And why would we want to turn off our minds when we need them so much – to prioritize, to think something through, to brew on things as they happen, to strategize, to figure out what we like, what we don’t like and to answer that eternal question of WHY!

Here’s a couple reasons why I want to turn off my mind at times:

  • To get some sleep for God’s sake.  I can’t sleep if my mind is racing around and that has been my recent struggle with insomnia.  I have also realized in the past day or so that my mind is going so much that even when I’m relaxing, my mind is still racing around like a Ferrari on overdrive.  No wonder I can’t sleep.
  • To think more clearly when I am awake and communicate more concisely
  • For my own general well being and inner peace.

So, now that I have a reason to want to let go of that mind of mine. . . . . and now that I have some incentive after 8 solid hours of sleep that yes, sleep is a needed commodity for dailly well being – the next baby step is letting that mind of mine take a break.

This evening, I’m going out to dinner with two of my favorite people in the world (besides my children of course).  They are my beloved husband’s partner and his wife – who have known me for 30 years and loved my husband dearly.  We frequently reminise about the good old days as well as bring each other up to date on the here and now.  They remember me when . . . . . and it never fails that we all laugh and cry so much (with or without wine flowing) that the next day we’re virtually hung over.

Though we don’t see each other often, the connection is always there and something we all thrive on. 

My point is that I’ve set myself up beautifully to turn off my mind beginning with dinner this evening and I”m so excited to get out of my mind for a while

Here’s today’s questions for you:

  • Do you ever notice how much time you spend in your head?
  • Do you have ANY desire to change that?
  • What, if anything, do you do to “get out of your head”?

Remember, there are no right or wrong answers here.  It’s an open forum – all comments are welcome.  Criticisms of mine or other strategies are not acceptable.  We live, we learn . . . and as Maya Angelou says “when we know better, we do better”.  Let’s learn from each other here about what works, what doesn’t and wherever you find yourself on this – 0r anything else I write about – is exactly where you need to be.

I was at Mindful Movement and Physical Therapy today and Sue Forbes, Co-owner and Movement Specialist, said to me that the body is like a symphony and when all the parts move together, blending in the right order and at the right time, it’s a beautiful arrangment.

But, if the horns are too loud, the drums are out of sync, or the flutes out of tune – well, then we no longer have a symphony.  We just have a bunch of discordant noise which creates more stress, pain and illness.  She was making an analogy about how my lower back and SI joint have compensated for a weak core over the years – the lower back being “my horns getting too loud” which is why I often have low back pain and poor core strength.

I thought about that for a while today and realized that some parts of my life are quite symphonic for me.  For example, every day I meditate and exercise. There is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t do both those things first thing in the morning.  The amount of time I spend doing them or the intensity may vary but I always get them in.

I may forget about drinking as much water, or eat inappropriately or not walk the dogs – but I’ve incorporated meditating and exercising into my daily routine and they are as easy and regimented for me as going to the bathroom.  Without meditating and exercising, I don’t think I”d be able to accomplish half of what I do everyday.

My life feels noisey when I don’t get enough sleep.  That seems to feed habits like too much activity, caffeine, etc and I can’t find that rhythm that creates greater ease and relaxation in my life.   The drums get too loud and overpower the more subtle joys that are available for me by just taking a simple breath of fresh air – distractions are all the more irritating, like the dogs needing to go out or the sounds of others walking in the house.  It all feels too loud.

What I notice is that without sleep, I feel more sensitive in general to other people’s noises, nuances, etc..  Things I might ordinarily overlook get very annoying like the squeaking dogtoy in the background.

So, tonight’s baby step is getting off the computer by 9PM and getting my pajamas by 9:30PM.

In the meantime, this blog is meant to serve you and help you address those things in your life that ARE working as well as those things that aren’t working as well as we’d like them to.  Jennifer Louden says that what we pay attention to grows.

Are there things that you’re doing every day that make your life flow more easily?  What are they?  If nothing comes to mind – no worries – I’ve been there many many times and I am sure others feel the same way.  What is challenging for you right now?  What would create a greater sense of ease in your life?  You can even post what the issue is and we’ll do our best to help you find your way through if you want some ideas.

I had a heart to heart conversation with myself last night about this continuing issue with insomnia here.  I’m sharing it with you here just so you can see what I’m talking up.

Curious Me:  Hey, what’s up with the sleeping lately?

Honest me:  You know what – I have poor sleep hygiene.  That’s what’s  really going on. . . . I have things (which I’m choosing not to share with you, my readers, but I was very specific with myself  on these issues) that are really shaking me up and I don’t want to turn off at night.  \

So, I find things to do like watch Survivor for the third time again as a way to bond with my son, do the laundry, read a book, eat popcorn at 11PM, anything but – get ready for bed.  Then, of course, there’s putting away the laundry, cleaning up the kitchen so it’s spotless in the morning (great habits  that my beloved mother taught me and that I value because I love waking up to order in the morning – nothing like it!), reading some inspirational books, maybe some writing, taking a shower using my favorite lotions and potions from Aardvard Essentials, etc.

Aside here – these are all great nurturing activities.  I’m not worried or anxious about anything.  And, they are also activities that if I thought about it I could do earlier as preparation for bed rather than beginning them at 11PM.

Honest me continuing here:  The result is getting in bed itself around 2-2:30 PM and then being unable to settle down.  Sleeping til 6 or so and all parts of me know that it works for a couple days but is not sustainable.

Critical Me:  Well, W-H-Y has it taken you so long to figure this out?  What’s wrong with me?

Honest Me:  Nothing wrong here – it just takes what it takes.  Yeah, I wish I’d figured it out sooner and there’s more to it but the long and short of it is – now that I know this, what am I willing to do about it?

Critical Me:  Yeah, what ARE you willing to do about it?

Honest Me:  Well there’s the “should answer” here that feels like the obvious solution.  Change your behavior honey.  Start these activities at 8PM

Responsible Me:  Yeah, for your own good, I’m suggesting you do that.

Rebellious Me:  Nope – not doing that.  I’m NOT getting ready for bed at 8PM.

Curious Me:  Well, what are you willing to do then?  I get you’re not ready to reform this all in one fell swoop here.

Honest Me:  Well, I am willing to call my doctor and fess up to what’s really going on here.

So, I did just that and she said to me, “Char, I know how hard this is for you right now (since she has some understanding of the personal circumstances surrounding this.)  And I know you’re getting other professional support to deal with these issues. 

So, what I recommend is that you take the sleeping medication I’ve prescribed for you no later than 3AM.  After that, you’re gonna be stuck with whatever shows up in terms of sleep that night.  You need to get through the day somehow with no nap and you’ll be so tired, you’ll sleep that night.  You’ll be okay – you’re dealing with it.”

I really feel like sending her a dozen roses today for getting it – and I just may do that – because I’m so grateful that she gets it and has come up with a logical do-able plan that I think will probably work for me.

This is amazing to me.  I woke up feeling hopeless – I now know that I’ll struggle through my day but I’ll do exactly as she said and we’ll see what happens.

It’s gonna be a good day – now that I have a plan and know that I’m not a lost cause here.

What do you do when you can’t sleep?  Have you considered what part YOUR actions play in your insomnia?  Would it help to have a do-able plan with this?  If so, that is indeed possible. 

You can contact your health care provider, you can contact me for the parts that you need support with knowing I’m not a physician but that I’ve been there, done that with respect to dealing with health concerns as my own patient and caregiver, and there are many other avenues that you can use for self exploration.

I’d love to hear your story – help is on the way.  There’s so many ways to solve health issues in our lives – feel free to borrow anything that works from me or my other readers.

Today’s question is this:  “What do you do when you have no idea what to do?”

What are you TALKING about – you may wonder.  This has no context.

Well, neither does being sick.  We are only sick when we compare ourselves to some other state we were once in that “felt better”. So, by comparison, when we feel “sick” – we don’t feel as good as we have at an earlier time.

OK – got that?

Back to the question again:  “What do you do when you have no idea what to do?”

So, now we’re talking about when something has gone haywire (at least compared to the way things once were), what do we do when we don’t know what to do.

Well, again, that’s one of those questions that has a million answers.

What’s do you think?

Since I love making an example out of myself, I’ll tell you what I do when I have no idea what to do as a general rule.  I learn something.  Or, if I don’t have energy for that, I try and remember something that I once learned.

I recently went to my primary care doctor’s office where we’re beating this issue of insomnia to death.  Forgot to prepare an Appointment Preparation worksheet so I felt unprepared.  I didn’t know what to talk about when I was there  –  I was just too tired to even think about it.  I’ve spent way too much time at her office lately trying to work this thing out and I’m so confused and sick of the entire subject.  I wish to God it would make me tired enough to make me sleep already . . . . for a long time too.

Anyway, I was in that situation where I was sick and had no idea what to do.  And I knew that.

So, I asked myself this question which I’ve borrowed from my colleague Janet Bailey– if I knew what to do WHICH  I Do what would I do right now?  – and you know what?  I knew immediately what to do.  I pulled out my calendar where I’d jotted down some notes of when I’d stopped sleeping, when we’d started certain supplements, their effects on me and on the back of a receipt – I put it all together.  In 30 seconds or less, I knew what I wanted to accomplish in my visit.

Ideally, I’d have had it together and come with my Appointment Preparation Worksheet in tact and had a copy for her as well.  Well, that’s not the way it happened.  But, what I knew how to do was to ask myself those same questions and communicate my needs clearly.

It dovetails nicely with my Patient Power Manifesto where I’ve committed to communicating clearly and succinctly what my needs are and also listened clearly to her instructions, not leaving there til I get it straight.

It all worked together – without the forms but with the learnings that come from training myself to be attentive both to my symptoms, my structure and use my primary care doctor for the things she’s good at – making sense of lab tests, giving clear instructions, and telling me how to follow up.  We got things straight, we’re still working this out, but I’m getting things sorted out.

Here’s my question for youHow do you cope when you’re feeling sick?  What do you know about yourself that helps you through it?

I know you may feel like you want to throw up your hands at this question (or maybe slug me for asking it) but YOU DO KNOW what helps you so draw on that if you can.

And if you can’t draw on that, then be willing to just listen to whatever comes up including the frustration, pain, angst, or overwhelm for clues about what might help you given your situation.

Comment Zen

  • Share how you feel, ask questions if you want, give feedback.
  • Support and insights are most welcome.  But, please – no criticism or judgments of me or others.
  • You are welcome to mention websites or authors you’ve found helpful.  Refrain from giving medical advice.

You ARE Your Best Expert on YOU!!

December 10th, 2009

There’s a couple things I’ve been noticing about human nature lately.  One is that we all want to be validated and appreciated.  Just check out Ellen DeGeneres – and when she comes on the stage, she’s looking for approval.  Though she may try and shy away from it or pretend it’s a bit of a “nuisance”, I think she’s loving it.

And what’s not to love about being approved of?  We all want it. . . . crave it in fact!

Then, there’s this other thing that we all long for which is for SOMETHING – just one thing – to stay the same. 

Since my particular focus is on supporting patients and caregivers dealing with chronic or serious illness, that one thing that we may have always taken for granted is our health.  We assume it’s going to be there, it’s often something we take for granted until BAM – something changes.

Whether we’re affected by a loved one or our own chronic illness, the good health that we may have enjoyed for most of our lives is suddenly changed.  Maybe it’s something temporary – like a cold or the flu – or maybe something more chronic – like an auto-immune disease.  Or God forbid, maybe something more serious.

But, whatever happened, things are NOT the same any longer.  AND, that can be very unsettling  – to put it mildly.  (you can also feel free to substitute your favorite expletive for your experience here)

What makes it all the more “unsettling” (for lack of a better word) is that the symptoms either change so frequently that it’s hard keeping up with yourself about what’s going on.  Or, on the other hand, nothing is changing at all despite whatever you do and you continue to wrestle with the same darn ache, pain, sadness, etc with no let up in site.  Another version is that you get some let up but it is so unexpected and often so brief – and then things come back sometimes with a vengeance.

I wish there were some pat answer for this kind of thing.  I wish I could wrap this all up in a neat little bow and give you six steps to get through this and tell you it will all be okay.

I so wish I could do that.  And I’d be lying to both of us to pretend that I can make change happen for anyone. 

With my own physical and mental symptoms, I have found the structures and support that work for me.  I’ve taken the time, when I feel good, to write down what things set off my symptoms, what helps things get better, what intensifies things and so I now have more of a working knowledge of this.

It’s taken me a while to do my own research on myself – the idea of being a habit detective came from my colleague Havi.  She helped me start watching what I do when I don’t feel good – how I become embarassed and  feel ashamed for “setting myself up” to feel bad.  From her, I learned to just take a good look at myself to see what I was doing first – and then slowly slowly make the changes that have helped me get out of pain in small incremental steps.

Words actually don’t do justice to this ongoing process – and I’ve been at it a long time.

If you are sick – I know it’s not easy being you.  And that’s probably the understatement of the day

I do have a teeny tiny request of you though if you’re willing – notice what makes you feel better.  Don’t do anything about it if you don’t feel like it – just notice the little things that helps.  If you’ve got migraines for example, maybe a dark quiet room helps.  If you’ve got chronic pain, maybe a certain stretch helps or a nap.  I don’t know what your answers are. . . . but I do know that there are answers.

And though I may sound like a broken record here, when we first notice what helps and then – if we want – share it with each other, we can create a web of support that works wonders across the virtual world. 

My day today has been really stressful and it follows a pattern of insomnia that I’ve developed off and on over several months.   I shared with my two 20 year old sons that it’s tough being me right now. 

Thank God, they are really amazing people – but what’s going on as I write this is nothing short of a miracle.  I ran errands for the missing ingredients, recycled, walked in at 10PM and they had the kitchen prepped, all the ingredients cut up, my comforter in the dryer (my cats keep throwing up on it) and are finishing the job as I write this. 

That kind of cooperation – which happened so unexpectedly – literally made my back pain disappear.  Completely gone!

Needless to say, I’ve thanked them profusely.  I’m fortunate that they are so supportive.  It isn’t always that way here – but today, in this moment, I can feel myself relaxing and resting into this amazing family that I have at home with me.  And I’m so grateful.

And, though I know it won’t last, that the symptoms will morph and change and the kitchen will inevitably get back to it’s grimy self as they’ll lose focus while they get excited about the game on TV – I can take in this moment as the blessing that it is.  And that helps me.  Alot!!!

So, what I’ve noticed is that when I share what’s true for me, sometimes I get unexpected cooperation and that feels really good to me.

What are you noticing as you’re dealing with your situation?  What kind of support really helps you when you’re not at your best? 


Comment Zen

  • Share how you feel, ask questions if you want, give feedback.
  • Support and insights are most welcome.  But, please – no criticism or judgments of me or others.
  • You are welcome to mention websites or authors you’ve found helpful.  Refrain from giving medical advice.

Since I was little, I have always known that nothing happens without me doing something – very little happens in my head actually other than things roaming around being processed, dissected, analyzed, incorporated, integrated – etc – and maybe that’s a lot but it never results in any concrete actions being taken.

Those concrete visible changes  require consistent baby steps that build on each other.

And, as I’ve gotten older those steps have gotten more well defined.  When I’m moving forward in my life, those steps also tend to be much smaller than I would like – and therefore, they are more likely to get done because I’ve thought them out first and then made some clear decisions.  At least, in theory, that’s how it works.

I saw my primary care doctor today.

We’re dissecting this insomnia situation of mine – and I’m learning how I take small steps to set up the insomnia the night before.

Things like staying on the computer too late, talking deeply with the kids after 11PM which is when things actually seem to ramp up when they’re home, working too late, etc – increases my adrenalin which decreases the likelihood that I can ease into sleep.

The result – insomnia.  It’s not totally that simple – but there is a good piece of this that amounts to what is known in the field as “poor sleep hygiene”.

So, I ask myself, what’s the first step to getting some sleep here?

And you know what I find?   I don’t want to go to sleep. I want to be awake – I want to ramp up at 11AM.  So, the first step is actually to back up and realize that I don’t have the same objective as I thought I did for my good health.  By going to sleep when things are getting exciting around here with the kids, I’m realizing that I don’t want to “give that up”!

OK, I can understand that.  It’s exciting having the kids here and I wanna be with them even if things aren’t looking very “Ozzie and Harriet like” here.

So, now – what’s the first step?

The first step is to acknowledge that I don’t want to play the “get a good nights sleep” game anymore. I’m rebelling from the whole structure and that’s why I’m not sleeping.

So, here’s the conversation I’m having in my head with the various parts of my personality:

Curious  and Critical  Me:  “Why are you setting yourself up not to sleep?”

Honest Me: ” Dunno – but I do notice that you’re shaking your finger at me while you’re asking me that which doesn’t make me feel too comfortable talking about it.”

Curious and Critical Me:  “Okay.  I’ll stop shaking my finger – but WHY are you setting yourself up for that?”

Honest Me:  “Well, I still don’t know but I do know but I recognize that tone of voice that you reserve for the customer service people that piss you off  when you need to get something done.  And that isn’t working for me either so maybe we should talk about it later.  Would it help if we called in a mediator to talk about this?”

Curious Me (critical me dropped out of the conversation now): “Oh, ya mean, one of those types that is gonna try and help us work it out.  Well, that won’t work for me cuz I’m honestly too tired to work anything out with you right now.”

Honest Me:  “OK – well, thanks for being honest.  We’ll look at this again tomorrow – I’m really tired.  Are you willing to wait til we get some sleep?

Curious and Critical Me:  I’ll wait but you know that won’t happen because you’ll get busy with something else and won’t revisit this until it becomes a crisis.

Honest Me:  You’re right.  How about we look at it while the kids are out tomorrow running errands in the afternoon?

Curious Me:  Really?!  You’ll really spend the time to look at it then?

Honest Me:  I promise.  I’ll even continue writing about it here so we can get somewhere with it.

Curious Me:  Oh, I’m so excited.  Let’s do it!!!

So, as for tonight, we haven’t reached an understanding of what to do next other than signing off and revisiting this tomorrow in writing.

But, I have confidence that by talking through this – all parts of me will come together at some point for some new and improved sleep strategies.

It may take a while. . . there may be some back and forth here. . . . but by staying in dialogue about it, I’ll find another way through this and tweak it as I go.

In the meantime, I’m sharing this with you because you too may have issues in your life – whether you are a patient, caregiver or both – where you know that what you’re doing is not exactly in your own best interest and you keep doing it anyway.

If that’s happening for you, I’d love it if you’d share your struggles, questions and successes here.

And I’ll continue on with this little sleep saga too. . . stay tuned.

Comment Zen

  • Share how you feel, ask questions if you want, give feedback.
  • Support and insights are most welcome.  But, please – no criticism or judgments of me or others.
  • You are welcome to mention websites or authors you’ve found helpful.  Refrain from giving medical advice.