Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My Stress Rescue: How to feed adrenals under pressure

It's been a pressure cooker around here, and I am not referring to the weather. My thesis (and my mood that's gone with it), family crises, illness, several sets of guests, and more have conspired to make me one crabby hunter-gatherer. I don't always cope well with stress, so I wanted to share some of my rescues. This is not medical advice or even a recipe for you to use, it's just a set of tools that has worked for me. I am always experimenting, so who knows what I will find next week? That's the spirit in which I describe these to you, to add to your knowledge base as you are working through your own health onion.

I use some or all of these depending on a) how badly I am feeling and b) where I am at the time & what I have on hand. This list is no particular order and is far from complete. Feel free to share your tips too, in the comments section.

~Maca drops--the one I have right now is a glycerite and seems to work fine. I keep it in my purse for those stressful moments out and about, like having just avoided an accident or having some crazy you-know-what scream at you.  There are quite a few other adrenal "adaptogens" (essentially, herbs that support how you deal with stress), this is the one that works for me. It takes quite a bit of trial-and-error to find your personal adrenal ally, but it is worth it.

~Rescue Remedy, and other such floral essences, work homeopathically, on an energetic level, but address the emotions primarily, instead of physical symptoms. It is worth carrying at all times as well--I have given it to freaked moms while fixing their kids' boo-boos with arnica and a bit of sympathy.

~Salt "loading"--this is where you drink a glass of water with sea salt (the real thing with all the minerals--don't use any bleached white salt), followed with more water. I usually only have to do it once a day, but it can be done more often. Sea salt is another thing I carry with me always, in a tiny pill box. It's even better, for you and for the taste, with some lemon in it. The adrenals need salt and C to keep functioning under stress. They also need fat, which brings me to...

~Fat--Coconut oil, butter, nuts, avocado...I just need to get some fat in me when I am stressed. With recent events I have been making a version of avocado "pudding." I put all of this in the blender , blend till smooth, and eat with a spoon (sometimes out of the blender, and yes, I eat it all. This is not the time to count calories):

  • a small ripe avocado (peeled, natch)
  • 1 piece of soft fruit (I just used a peach, have used banana, berries, etc. Leave it out if sugars are an issue, and definitely make sure it is ripe.)
  • a pastured egg (I do include the white, but you can leave it out if you avoid raw whites)
  • a spoonful of coconut oil (and/or butter)
  • anti-inflammatory spices, such as ginger, turmeric, cinnamon. I often add vanilla or almond extract, especially if I am not adding sweetener.
  • sweetener--I use honey, just a bit, but use what you prefer that won't make you feel worse
  • If the stress is of a particular variety, I throw in a handful of (organic, of course) chocolate chips (could use a spoonful of cocoa for chocolate pudding). Sometimes I blend them a bit, sometimes not. And yes, they have sugar in them, a touch, and sugar is the devil and it undermines health. Yes it does, but I seem to tolerate this amount just fine. Just telling you my story--you decide what works for you, ok? I mean that in the nicest way, because what works for one person is almost guaranteed not to work that way for someone else, so what I do is just what I know works for me. Like I said, next week I may learn something new...

~Tulsi or Holy Basil--I drink tulsi tea quite often. I think it helps, but is both pretty gentle and maybe one of those things that needs to build up in the body to work, so it's not a fabulous rescue. It is good to bring peace to an agitated afternoon.

~Broth--Superfood supreme, this has adrenal support as another of its virtues. So maybe "salt load" with a mug of salty, lemony broth and lift it to toast the Stock Pot Gods. And check out this great post on the science behind how broth can help us manage stress.

~Hot tub--self explanatory, right? Saunas, steam baths, and the bathtub work too. Even a hot shower helps.

~Sleep!!!-Yes, this is a tough one, but I do everything I can to sleep, especially when under stress. Whatever ritual gets you there, do it, I say!

~Bodywork--a massage, chiropractic adjustment, or other body therapy works wonders. It gives me some space out of my head and stress, and it corrects the weird things I have forced my poor body to do while working and stressing. A facial or foot massage helps too! There are lots of ways to pamper even without big bucks.

~Walk--or run or do yoga or bike or... just move! But not too much, because that adds stress to the adrenals. Walk with someone and keep a pace where you can talk--that's about right.

~Talk--"reach out and touch ..." (Boy, did that date me). Yes, call someone and talk out the issues, have lunch with a friend, cry on your sweetheart"s shoulder, whatever--just know you don't have to shoulder the burden alone (unless you choose to, but then you probably wouldn't be reading this, would you?)

~Sunbathe-- I have no idea of the science backs me up on this, but laying in the sun for 15 minutes or so makes me feel better. Good enough for me!

~Laugh--make jokes, watch a funny movie, hang out with your goofiest friend. Laughing has actual physical healing properties, but the way I think it really helps stress is to take the focus off what's eating me. It's a great refocusing tool, by creating perspective. It's all pretty funny, so just laugh... If that's hard, start by smiling. Preferably at someone, but (and I have done this, so I know it works) just standing and smiling at yourself in the mirror can actually change your mood. Try it!

~Distraction--especially useful for prolonged stress, this is very personal. I read junky magazines, surf the web or window shop. I make things. I set limits on how much time I can spend on this, if work is the stress, but I do take a while to make sure my head is clear and I am not crazed when I sit down to work or I will get even more frustrated and bitchy.  If it takes a cup of tea and looking at vintage dresses online for a few minutes, so be it.

Resolving the stress is the best way to cope, but it isn't always possible to do before stress affects us negatively.  At that point, we also need to support the immune system in our customary ways. I eat lots of garlic, onions, ginger, increase my broth, probiotic foods, cod liver oil and keep immune boosters like elderberry and echinacea on hand.

I avoided talking much about sweets and didn't mention various drugs or alcohol because, while these things can help in sane doses and in the right situation, they can also contribute to physical stress and undermine immunity--just when you want to strengthen it. Use them at your discretion and keep notes on all of your experiments and trials, because that's the only way to know works and what doesn't.

Hugs to you all! It's coziest stress-buster ever....

How do you deal with stress? Any techniques or foods/herbs/etc that work really well for you? Please share them below so we can all get better at managing these situations....

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

So Very Close....

Ok my, Loyal Supporters, I am almost DONE. Major project submitted, one mama bear sized one almost done, and the baby bear will be turned in this coming weekend. So someday I will be back here writing original stuff. But in the meantime, I wanted to share this post about....writing! I especially like this quote (obvious, I suppose, but it sums up what I have been up to):
it’s okay if I can’t find time to blog, but it’s not okay if you don’t find time to write your thesis. Convenient, perhaps, but also true. The more you can think of writing as an obligation, the more progress you will make towards the goal of a completed thesis.
Go here to read the full post: which sheds some light on blogs and writing in general. I miss being here and I'm nearing home, so keep a light on for me, will you? p.s. I am having formatting issues--perhaps from an overuse of my detail brain recently, but please excuse the lack of a paragraph break above. I am giving up on trying to fix it now.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Finding My Voice

Struggling to find My Voice today, the one that resides comfortably in my head, the one that spins a story to support a serious fact with ease and a bit of humor.

Instead, the one that nags loudly is Academic Voice, the one that produces painful run-on sentences with convoluted subordinate clauses (all perfectly footnoted in APA style). And doesn’t trust anything she writes.

Every so often Snarky Girl pipes up too, wanting her say. Snarky Girl like to write with a lot (a lot!!!!!!!!) of exclamation points when she’s not being sarcastic. She also sounds like every other snarky girl out there.

Needless to say, this situation is a bit of a problem, with The Thesis deadline looming.

I have started several times. I have written clunky,
and (maybe one or two) witty lines.

Nothing is working. But don’t give me that “W.B.” title (no, I won’t write it out, that might be giving it too much power). Because I think the problem is that I haven’t been writing for YOU. I think I have misplaced My Voice because I am just not looking in the WRITE PLACE.

Yes, I did just pun on myself. Sorry. I need to just do this--you can shield your eyes if it’s upsetting to your sensibilities.

In The Last Place I Look
You do see what I am getting at, though, I know you do. I keep telling myself that my blog is an extra, to just stick to the writing, the Serious Writing, that I must do to finish my masters. I have been doing this for months, neglecting you all, neglecting my true inspiration. Yet, this is what feeds me: coming here and talking about whatever you need to know, whatever I need to share, whatever is new and juicy and so compelling that the posts damn near write themselves.

All the posts I have missed on this austerity plan could fill a book. Which is good, because I need to write a book right now.

So here is what I am going to do: write blog posts. Some I will share with you and some will go in the book, depending on the day. Maybe I can feed you all, myself AND The Beast at the same time. Because there is more than one way to skin this cat[1].  

And if nothing else, we can all have fun in the attempt.....
[1] No actual animals were harmed in the production of this blog post.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Meet the Gudanovs: Confessions of a Nit-picker

It's January, and, as I do every year, I have been reading fervent and encouraging blog posts focusing on the change we would all like to create in our lives. You know, that human impulse toward new beginnings, to remaking ourselves. I have tried to understand this phenomenon, the one usually accompanied by "new year's resolutions" but it's not something in my family culture. Instead, we--my birth family--always seem to be trying to make ourselves better.

I mean ALWAYS.

It's actually sort of a curse, if you think about it. In this world view, nothing is ever quite right, quite acceptable, so we keep trying to meet that Standard in the Sky. My husband's clan name for us is Notgudanov, and that about sums it up.

Oh, I don't mean that we are slackers or dolts. Actually, we are are a fairly intelligent and hard-working lot (ok, that's not modest, but it is important to understanding the issue). The expectations are actually enormous, coming from three generations of Ivy League educated professionals. No, that not good enough feeling--it's hardwired at birth in my family. And we spend the rest of our lives trying to master that one pesky emotion. The one that says we must do great things....except that we will never get it quite right.

Which can lead to a sort of paralysis, if you are following the logic of how this affliction unfolds. It can be hard to start something if it is obvious that others have done it better, or if the concept is too difficult to understand every nuance, or if there is insufficient time to do it perfectly.

Because "good enough" never entered the family vocabulary.

This is a pretty stressfully way to live. It involves surrounding myself with people who will reinforce my negative views. It involves taking on projects so large I will surely fail. It involves focusing on the ugly, awful, hard, unpleasant aspects of life to the exclusion of almost all else.

It makes me miserable.

As long as am being so intimate with you all as to share my dark side, I should really come clean: My name is Justine, and I am A Perfectionist.

When I looked perfectionist up, hoping to come up with a cute or quirky synonym, I realized that I was resorting to the same old tactic: substiting the fancy for the plain to try to look better, smarter, whatever. There is no better word. I am a fuss-budget, nit-picky, slightly obsessive, purist. (Note the Oxford comma ;/ I can't seem to get out of my own way.) I grew up being called many of the names on the list. I guess it was all part of the training program.

So here I am, a grown up fuss budget and I want to change. Yeah, I know, that's where I started this rant, with railing against my internal "not good enough" meter yelling at me to Change! As I see it today, though, there is healthy change (fixing a problem) and pathological change (trying to fix what is fine). The change I need is to recognize when nothing needs fixing.

I actually started this process some years ago, by fixing some huge problems I had created in my life (see above, the paragraph about reinforcing the negatives). I got out of an unhealthy marriage, returned to school, found my soul mate, addressed some health issues. I have found areas of study that compel me, despite my perfectionism. What I am left with is the nasty sticky emotion of not being good enough.

And that is what needs changing--because nothing is wrong except my perception. It is obviously broken, as broken as an anorexic's body image.

What does this have to do with you all, who come here for talk about food and politics and snippets of family life on a boat? In some ways, nothing. I will keep writing about all of that. But what I am trying to do is to stop feeling guilty when I don't write on a schedule. And I want to be able to talk about what's on my mind, even if it isn't perfectly on topic. I am a person, not an anonymous content creator, and I have so many interests and concerns and observations that I can hardly restrain myself from sharing them. But I do just that: I restrain myself, because I think I won't write the definitive post, or someone will unsubscribe, or I don't have the time to write it "right".

Which is all so dumb it makes me want to scream. It's tiring. And not at all productive (talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy!) So, I am actually going to create something that smells awfully like a new year's resolution. I am stating one goal for myself this year: I will speak, write, act with joy (rather than self censorship, fear, and negativity). That doesn't mean I won't have sad or angry feelings--those come with my chosen territory (did you see that CDC recommendation to curtail breastfeeding when vaccinating to make the vaccine "take" better? There is work to do...) It's the ridiculous standards that have to go, not the passion. Who knows, maybe I'll be even more outspoken!

Choosing to dismantle my perfectionism may be a long process with false starts and detours along the way, but I hope you stick it out with me. I am determined to fill my life with people who are supportive, and who are fascinated by similar issues--that's YOU! I am honored that you choose to read my words when I muster enough of them to press "publish" and I hope to grow to deserve your continued love and support. Thank you for being here.

Post Script: I am working on my thesis right now, so whatever writing I do for the next few months is sure to reflect that. I would love feedback as I go along, so please do come right to the blog and post your comments.
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