You’ll Never Guess Why I Got The Flu

In the midst of one of the worst flu seasons in Milwaukee ever on record, I got the dreaded flu. Yet all my friends we’re so surprised because “you’re my healthiest friend.”

So, why did I get the flu?

Ask a scientist or doctor and you’ll hear about the human immune system and airborne contagions. As if it is all physical… I generally have a very strong immune system, and I actively use natural, holistic supplements and other things to keep it that way.

So, why did I get the flu? Is it all physical? I think not.

The Back Story

I started out 2018 by setting new intentions and goals, as I do each New Year. Usually this is in the form of theme words. One of my theme words this year is CONNECTED. For me, CONNECTED means CONNECTED to the Universe, to Spirit, to those in my life, and to myself.

[I use the words Universe and Spirit here to represent a spiritual connection. Please translate to whatever words may work for you, such as God, Buddha, Goddess, Higher Power, The Divine, or whatever fits for you.]

But this year, for the first time ever, I also got a motto for my new year. When I say that I got it, I mean that I didn’t set out to create a motto. The idea and the words just came to me. (Hmmmm… divine inspiration.)

My motto for 2018: Less is More.

Ever since that motto came to me, I have been pondering what it really means. I started wondering how Less is More might be related to my intention to be CONNECTED.

So, why did I get the flu?

Essential vs. Optional

I can’t remember the last time I was this sick. A couple of days were like a blur to me… fever, aches, fatigue, nausea, headache migraine, coughing, sleeping, resting.

The decision to cancel everything (do less!) on my schedule for the rest of the week came out of sheer necessity. I was non-functional. Being that sick made it easier to see what is essential and to let go of the rest.

After a visit to my most amazing chiropractor, Dr. Angie English, the fever finally broke!

Then I became dangerous! As I was slowly feeling better physically, I almost immediately started thinking “If I have to be stuck home sick, maybe I could at least get some things done.”

So I started rescheduling appointments, and picking up things around the house that I had strewn all over. Dr. Angie warned me to take it easy and continue resting. Yes, good idea but certainly I can do that later after I finish doing a few more things, right? Dangerous!

Doing more felt better. More is more, right? That was my instinct.

So, why did I get the flu?

The Gift of the Flu

I think the Universe loves me so much (and you too!) that it responded to my intention for Less is More. The flu was so bad that all doing and most thinking came to a complete halt. It forced me to make the decisions necessary to do less and be more in the moment, tuned in to myself…Connected!

I was just becoming aware of these lessons from the Universe when I decided to take an Epsom salt bath with frankincense and lavender essential oils. The one I took the day before really helped, so this time I added more frankincense. More is more, right?

Shortly after I got in the tub, my skin started tingling and itching. Too much frankincense. Oops, I guess less is more.

Seeing deeper than a negative situation

Thank you Universe for loving me so much to help me see past a seemingly negative situation and learn so many lessons about Less is More:

Less doing and busy-ness
• Less sense of urgency
• Less focus on being productive; more focus on being
• Being in the present moment (mindfulness)
• Accepting what is (leading to the next item….)
• Peace even in the midst of illness
• Honoring my limitations
• Practicing asking for help
• Prioritizing myself first

 

What could you learn if you could see beyond a seemingly negative situation and listen more deeply?

I’m listening Universe… Next request… May I come to listen more deeply and understand how Less is More without the flu, please?

P.S. The Universe loves you too!

10 MORE Great Ways to Love Yourself

Last February I wrote about Loving Yourself and it was so popular I decided to add 10 more ways to love yourself this year….

Gifts that Say I Love You to Yourself

1. Rest. My Vipassana meditation teacher from Burma says (in his Burmese accent): “Take Rest, Take Rest, Take Rest.” Whether it be sleep or a 2 minute break, rest is a gift to yourself so…Take it!

2. Self-compassion. Are you harder on yourself than you are on everybody else? Stop beating yourself up. Treat yourself with the same kindness, care, and support that you would offer to another person that you care about.

3. Schedule fun. Make a list of 20 things you think are fun. Then put them into your calendar and make your fun just as important (or even more important!) as all your other appointments.

4. Make a list and check it twice. Sit down and don’t get up until you’ve listed 10 things you love about yourself. If it’s very easy, then make it 20.

5. Let learning be enough. Forgive yourself for past mistakes or errors in judgment. Hindsight truly is 20/20 so take the lessons away from past mistakes and they will help you move forward. Self-forgiveness is the antidote to guilt, self-blame and self-criticism.

6. Stand up for yourself. Know that your needs and opinions matter. Be confident in asserting yourself and letting others know what is important to you. You’re worth it!

7. Practice being truly present. Learning how to be mindful adds more pleasure and meaning to life. Plus it reduces stress and anxiety. This is a continual practice. You don’t ever have to become an expert – you just need to keep practicing. Start with the intention to “be here now”… and practice.

8. Hang out with the best. Consciously choose to spend your precious time with people who lift you up, who treat you well, respect you, and accept you just the way you are.

9. Embrace this 4-letter word. H-E-L-P. Why do we think we are supposed to do everything on our own? Who made that rule? Asking for help is a sign of wisdom, not weakness. Help is what makes the world go around, and makes us feel connected. It is a gift knowing you don’t have to do it all alone.

10. Celebrate your successes. Acknowledge yourself for all accomplishments big and small. Writing them down in a success journal helps your brain to remember them and builds confidence. Read over your list regularly and see the proof in writing of how truly capable and amazing you are.

Acupuncture for Anxiety

Chinese medicine and acupuncturists view anxiety as an imbalance in your organ system called “Shan You Si” meaning “anxiety and preoccupation.” This is believed to affect your main organs: Heart, Lung, Spleen, Liver and Kidneys. Each of these organs is related to different aspects of your emotions and different energy flows within the body.

Acupuncture restores the energy and functioning of those organ systems to restore balance to your emotional state and reduce anxiety. Most people experience deep relaxation during the acupuncture treatment itself, and after a series of treatments acupuncture can contribute to lower anxiety levels.

Take Micro-Breaks

In all the busyness and doingness of your day, stress and anxiety continually build up. Your mind and body need more breaks.

Try taking micro-breaks many times a day, perhaps even many times an hour. Micro-breaks can last for just 5-60 seconds at a time. You can try many different things on your micro-breaks.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:cloud-stencil

• Stand up and stretch
• Stare out a window
• Close your eyes
• Breathe in through your nose and out forcefully through your mouth
• Step outside and look at the clouds
• Give yourself a quick hand massage
• Drink a glass of water
• Visualize the best part of your last vacation
• Imagine a peaceful nature scene – by mountain, lake, river, forest

 

Here’s what NOT to do on your micro-breaks:to-do-buster-stencil-default

• Do not multi-task
• Do not use any electronics
• Do not look at your To Do List
• Do not make a mental To Do List
• Do not eat junk food
• Do not talk to someone else

The Hugging Meditation by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh

huggingfriends-stencil“You can practice hugging meditation with a friend, a child, your parents, or even a tree. To practice, first bow to each other and recognize each other’s presence. Then, enjoy three deep, conscious breaths to bring yourself fully into the present moment.

Next, open your arms and begin hugging, holding each other for three in-and out-breaths.

  • With the first breath, become aware that you are present in this very moment and feel happy.
  • With the second breath, become aware that the other person is present in this moment and feels happy as well.
  • With the third breath, become aware that you are here together, right now, on this Earth. We can feel deep gratitude and happiness for our togetherness.

Finally, release the other person and bow to each other to show your thanks.”

Loving and Connection Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Last month I invited you to make February the LOVE month for yourself. Did you accept the invitation? If not, you can always start now! Click here if you missed the article.

This month let’s explore how loving and connecting with others helps reduce stress and anxiety, and how it impacts your health.

Oxytocin: Why You Want It

Oxytocin is the hormone of love and bonding. It helps us to feel trust and connection. It helps us to empathize and be caring and generous with others.

Oxytocin is also extremely effective at lowering cortisol (your body’s main stress chemical) and therefore can help lower the effects of stress and anxiety. The more oxytocin, the better able you are to handle life’s stressors.

Other benefits of oxytocin:

• stimulates dopamine (the feel-good hormone) and serotonin, for elevated mood
• balances out your nervous system and builds the parasympathetic nervous system which reduces anxiety
• decreases feelings of loneliness
• increases self-esteem
• reduces depression
• reduces fear and PTSD
• improves digestion
• builds the immune system
• decreases pain and inflammation

Oxytocin quite likely plays a role in why pet owners heal more quickly from illness, why couples live longer than singles, and why support groups work for people with addictions and chronic diseases.

Connect More to Get More Oxytocin

Your amazing body naturally produces oxytocin when you feel loved and connected. Here are some ways to get that feeling:

• hugsdiwithcat
• touch
• massage
• cuddling, even with a stuffed animal
• laughter
• connecting with others
• petting your cat/dog
• showing compassion
• random acts of kindness
• helping others in need
• not only giving, but receiving and letting love in
• accepting help from someone
• relaxation practices that help you feel connected to the world/people/animals around you

When we allow ourselves to connect with others in these ways, both people benefit from a boost of oxytocin!

huggingguys-stencilHug More to Reduce Stress

We have long known that human touch is calming and triggers the body’s relaxation response. Modern scientific research about oxytocin helps explain what our ancestors knew instinctively.

Hugs are a great way to increase oxytocin and activate the parasympathetic nervous system to reduce stress and anxiety.

Virginia Satir, a famous family therapist said: “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”

How many hugs a day do you give and get?

The average hug is under 10 seconds long. It doesn’t take long, so be proactive in looking for ways to increase your hugs per day, per week, per month.

Connect More = More Oxytocin = Less Stress and Anxiety

Technology that can help you Manage Anxiety

greatideaMy friend and colleague Jamie Durner is an Ayurvedic Practitioner, Wellness Educator, and Yoga Instructor.  She found a whole bunch of online resources (many are free!) for mindfulness, meditation, calming, and relaxation.

Take advantage of technology for apps, videos, and downloads to help manage stress and anxiety.

Some of these guided meditations and other tools can be helpful in as little as 2 minutes!

Check  them out in Jamie’s blog post

Aromatherapy

greatideaAromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils to enhance well-being on all levels: body, mind, spirit, emotions, and energy. Essential oils are highly concentrated formulas of natural substances. Look for 100% pure essential oil.

Try these essential oils which are often used for stress relief:

Jasmine: Enhances mood and can help reduce anxiety

Lavender: Helps reduce production of cortisol, a key stress hormone

Tangerine: Relieves stress and fear, and helps calm the nervous system

Chamomile: You’ve heard of the tea, but try the essential oil for increased calm, peace and patience

Bergamot Orange: Energizes and helps reduce fatigue and cortisol production

Can Spirituality and Prayer Reduce Stress & Anxiety?

When new clients come into my office, I always ask what things they’ve already tried for reducing their stress and anxiety.  Usually they’ve already tried multiple things… with varied success.
 
Would it surprise you to know that PRAYER is one of the most common responses I get?  And that it is usually used with success?
 
Prayer = Anxiety Reduction Tool?
 
handsPeople don’t usually think of it that way. I know prayer is much more than that, but it sure does seem to help with the anxiety.  That’s according to many of my clients, plus some scientific research on prayer and spirituality.
 
It doesn’t matter what your spiritual or religious beliefs are.  Any faith in a Higher Power, energy, God, Spirit, Universe or whatever you may call it can bring peace, comfort, and patience.  It’s more about connection with yourself and with others, development of your personal value system, and your search for meaning in life.
 
Anxiety often includes feeling like things are out of your control, and a natural human response to that is to try harder to control things (which paradoxically creates more anxiety).  Prayer and spiritual beliefs can remind you that you are not alone, you are divinely guided and protected, and that there may be a bigger plan than you are currently aware of.
 
Serenity
 
Today I was feeling anxious about some details relating to my move to my new office.  I wanted to accept that certain details are simply out of my control at the moment, trust that all is well, and know that things will work out in the end even though I’m not sure how.  I found comfort repeating (actually singing) this common prayer:
 
Serenity Prayer
 
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
 

Scientific Research

Some interesting findings in recent studies…
 
At Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital, one study of those from Jewish and Christian faiths found that those with higher trust in a caring God reported lower levels of worry and more openness to uncertainty.  [Inability to tolerate uncertainty is associated with higher levels of anxiety.]
 
In a second study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, participants were randomly assigned to one of 3 groups:  a spiritually integrated treatment (SIT) group, a progressive relaxation group, and a control group.
 
The SIT participants received daily teachings and spiritual exercises designed to increase trust in God.  The progressive relaxation group was taught techniques for body relaxation.  The control group received no intervention of any kind.
 
Results showed that after 2 weeks, the spiritually integrated SIT group had significantly higher levels of trust and lower levels of intolerance, worry, and stress.  On the flip side, people who mistrusted God showed higher levels of worry, stress and more intolerance to uncertainty.
 

How Spirituality Can Help
 
church-stencilThe Mayo Clinic says spirituality has many benefits for stress and anxiety relief and overall mental health. It can help you:
  • Feel a sense of purpose. Cultivating your spirituality may help uncover what’s most meaningful in your life. By clarifying what’s most important, you can focus less on the unimportant things and eliminate stress.
  • Connect to the world. The more you feel you have a purpose in the world, the less solitary you feel — even when you’re alone. This can lead to a valuable inner peace during difficult times.
  • Release control. When you feel part of a greater whole, you realize that you aren’t responsible for everything that happens in life. You can share the burden of tough times as well as the joys of life’s blessings with those around you.
  • Expand your support network. Whether you find spirituality in a church, mosque or synagogue, in your family, or in nature walks with a friend, this sharing of spiritual expression can help build relationships.
  • Lead a healthier life. People who consider themselves spiritual appear to be better able to cope with stress and anxiety, and heal from illness or addiction faster.

The Calm-Down Playlist

greatidea
 
Check out these tunes that are designed to relax, calm and bring peace of mind… 
 
“Makambo,” by Geoffrey Oryema
 
“By Your Side,” by Sade
 
“Pachelbel Meets U2,” by Jon Schmidt
 
“Shadows Fall,” by Michael Hoppé
 
“Diamonds in the Sun,” by Girish
 
“Méditation,” from the opera Thaïs, Act II
 
“High and Dry,” by Radiohead