Today I treated a nurse who works in the Neurotrauma unit at St. Mike’s Hospital. Her description of her duties is admiral but also stressful. When you are running on adrenaline, your breath becomes shallow and your body will store tension in your upper body. Especially when you are trying to deflect the emotional aspects of caring for your patients and their family members. Take the time during hand washing to slow down your breath and luxuriate in the brief moment that you are taking care of yourself. Small moments of belly breathing are enough to give you energy and mental clarity to be your best. Realign. Strengthen. Live your Life.
Like Santa, we lift, stand for long periods of time and work around the clock. During this holiday season, ask yourself this:
“Why am I so quick to invest in material things and not my own body?”
Being young and full of vitality takes work. A healthy lifestyle trumps depending on “good genes”. (oh yes it’s true)
See a chiropractor. Learn about your posture and alignment. Prevent unhealthy alignment and pain. Get on the right foot.
Dance inherently trains the body about spatial awareness, balance and the emotional connection to music. It is the simplest way to develop your ability to listen to your body’s internal cues.
Many of my patients are disconnected to their bodies. The onset of injuries shock them, their strain is annoying and pain is an inconvenient symptom. What they don’t realize is that the body has been whispering messages to them for many years. It is only until the body “goes on strike” with a debilitating injury, that my patients start to listen then come to my office.
It’s time to listen.
Look what a corset can do…. You can use your abdominal “corset”: the transverse abdominus muscle to achieve the same effect.
Photo taken from
http://pinterest.com/pin/421016265134695384/ via @pinterest
The transverse abdominus is the deepest layer of abdominal muscle and is a muscle that stabilizes the spine and improves posture. It’s a muscle that requires endurance. Pilates is a great way to strengthen this muscle.
It’s important for me that my patients understand what is happening in their body. This is why I come up with analogies. A lot of times, they come so spontaneously I surprise myself.
When a patient complains of pain and numbness and tingling that radiates from the neck to their fingers as a result of postural strain from sustained desk work and excessive sitting, this is what I say:
“Your nerve is like a USB connection to your computer which is your brain. Sensory nerves are responsible for giving messages about sensation (hot, cold, vibration, pressure) to the brain and the brain uses motor nerves to send messages to muscles to move. When muscles are chronically tight, they compromise your posture which compromises your nerves ability to relay those messages like a really poor USB connection. As a result, you feel numbness and tingling or pain”.
Suddenly the patient’s “inner light bulb “goes off and understands this concept much better. In the digital age, you need to think of the nerves like USB connections.
Being aware and connected to the messages that your body give you is the first step in healing. How can you correct something that you don’t understand?
My analogies are simple and are not meant to be very physiological to the point of confusion. My intention is for my patients to understand CONCEPTS not become adept in neuroanatomy (for those of you hardcore anatomists who find this analogy too simple).
Chiropractic helps to restore those connections. I also layer in myofascial work , acupuncture and exercise prescription so that proper alignment becomes a lifestyle choice.
Take care of your USB connections. Take care of your body.
It is often emphasized that balance is the key to good health, but really balance in the sense that all aspects in life have an equal part of your “energy pie” never happens. The the amount of energy that you give to each part changes in ratio with each day or season of life. For example, when I was a student, most of my waking hours were dedicated to being in class and studying. Socializing, housework, saving money, etc. took a very small portion of my energy. Is that bad? Not really. It’s realistic for that moment in time. Is it balanced? No. But was I healthy? Yes, as much as I could for that moment.
Similarly, in my phase of being a mother to two young children I am content if on top of keeping my kids happy and healthy that I can get in two days of exercise per week, sleep 4-5 hours a night , eat regularly, connect with my husband and keep my business afloat. Isn’t that nuts? Yes! It’s hard for me to swallow sometimes, but it’s as balanced as I can be for the time being. (Also note that housework didn’t even make the list).
So really, balance is elusive. Priorities shift and chaos ensues. The key to staying afloat of this chaos is the feeling and connection with being grounded.
Grounded? What the heck is that?
I would argue that most people do not even recognize that they are not grounded. Being grounded means having complete control of your breath, not being emotionally connected to the possibility of failing and having a consistent positive outlook on life. I’m touch and go with being grounded and currently I am working towards getting back there.
For me, I know I’m grounded when I can feel the ground beneath my feet. I get this feeling after a chiropractic adjustment or a yoga/pilates class. It’s very important for you to have the kinesthetic awareness of the ground beneath your feet. It means you feel stable. This stability is both figurative and literal.
I can empathize with my shallow breathing patients who feel like a “chicken running around with their head cut off”. Their minds are racing and they feel like a helium balloon floating away, disconnecting from the earth and their bodies.
Shallow breathers, return to belly breathing
Shallow breathing happens when your adrenaline is activated. Think of your adrenaline as your body’s internal espresso machine or “Red Bull”. Inherently, we have this mechanism to react to life-threatening dangers, but in the modern world we activate this hormone to meet deadlines, apease relationships and satisfy material needs. Ideally, adrenaline should be used transiently until the resolution of the stressor, however most people maintain adrenaline levels until it turns into complete disconnection with your body and eventual burn out.
Please acknowledge this: Constant shallow breathing leads to chronic tension in the neck, chest and shoulder muscles, dysfunctional ribs and anxiety. Like hyperventilating, your head is floating away like a helium balloon. Only you can keep yourself from flying away.
Pull that string
Bring yourself back to the ground by doing the following:
- Belly breathing: As you inhale, your abdomen should be relaxed and your belly button should move away from your spine. Shoulder and neck muscles should be relaxed and stop gripping your jaw, eyebrows, fist, hips etc. There’s no reason for the tension!
- Meditate: Visualize the connection of your feet to the ground. Imagine the helium ballon returning to the rest of your body. Use whatever imagery, (ex. creating roots from your feet into the soil) that makes sense.
- Go outside. Be present. Walk barefoot and feel the breeze against your face. City people spend too much time in front of machines.
- Get body work. See a chiropractor, massage therapist, osteopath, acupuncture or whomever you feel comfortable to help you release tension and reconnect with your body.
- Move. Take a yoga or pilates class or move in any way that nurtures your soul. Stretch and strengthen.
- Practice Gratitude. Be grateful for what your daily victories are instead of what the holes in your list are that need to be accomplished.
- Acknowledge that balance is not the key
- Acknowledge that being GROUNDED is the answer.
I hope this helps.
If there is one thing that I can take away as a lesson from the year 2010, it would be that nothing is certain. Every year I write a list of goals that I plan to achieve. Well this year I’m not doing that. I’ve learned that in life, things will unfold at the rate that they should and no matter how prepared you are, what you envision will not manifest if it is not the right time.
This may sound a bit pessimistic at first glance, but in fact it is not. For as far back as I can remember I’ve written lists and I’ve pretty much ticked off a lot on those lists with great efficiency. Some would say that my list is quite extensive, but my “A-type” personality disagrees. Nevertheless, I’ve evolved from a rigid list maker to one that throws her hands in the air and says, “Just let it be”.
Within the past five years, I’ve experienced many transitions in my personal, family, academic and career life. That’s just how I am. Life is not stagnant and I am grateful for that. During each transition, the degree of uncertainty can overwhelm myself and the lists fly out.
Well, no more lists for me! I vow to relinquish control so that life is much more enjoyable and meaningful.
I will be present, be grateful and take a leap of faith. (I guess I just made another list).
The season of spring not only wakes up hibernating animals from their slumber, but hibernating athletes as well. The rise in temperature brings out more people being physically active outdoors. This is a wonderful thing, but please take this word of advice: Although your mind may feel that your body is as fit as it was in its “Heyday”, it may not be. If you haven’t been consistent with your training, the reality is that your muscles atrophy (shrink) and your flexibility reduces. The same thing applies to your cardio. Your heart is a muscle and if you don’t do endurance training regularly, your ability to exercise for longer periods of time will reduce.
In a nutshell, take the following steps so that your Spring enthusiasm doesn’t lead you to injury:
- Be realistic with your goals. If you ran 10K regularly in November, you may not be able to do that today. Find a training book that will give you a program to gradually increase your mileage safely.
- Mind your posture. Your back, abdominals and gluts stabilize your spine and pelvis and maintain proper alignment in any activity. If these muscles are not well conditioned, you can develop injuries such as low back pain, I-T band syndrome, etc.
- Cross Train. Your body adapts to the stimuli that you give it. If you sit most of the year, your body has adapted to this and will not be able to handle a new burst of activity. Engage in full body resistance training, dance, pilates/yoga and cardio to give yourself a strong and leaner body.
- Get new shoes. Those kicks from the ’80s are not going to cut it. Find a good shoe that provides cushioning and support and that is SPORT SPECIFIC to your activity.
- Enjoy! Don’t be too hard on yourself if your body doesn’t seem to be as strong as it was before. Realize that the body adapts and will improve with consistent training. Enjoy the wind and sun on your face as you play outdoors! Re-awaken your senses.
Historically, the Philippines was ravaged by many years of colonialism from Spain and Japan. Despite this, Filipinos are master survivors whose culture has family at its nucleus. I am a first generation Canadian Filipino brought up to value family, yet I didn’t realize how true to nature family is to Filipinos until I visited the Philippines for the first time in 31 years.
In Makati, there are so many shopping malls it makes Toronto look barren. Moreover, they are FULL of people….eating. I was shocked to see how many eateries there were and all of them were full of customers. Initially my thoughts were, “Gosh, Filipinos are gaining weight here. They are so indulgent.” (Side note: I had a preconceived notion that all Filipinos were skinny and ate lots of vegetables and fruits as in the days of my parents). But if one takes a closer look, one will notice that every restaurant is full of families. Food is one ingredient that brings family together.
Now what happens when you don’t have food? The Philippines has a distinct separation between the poor and the rich. Shanty towns line any available pocket in the city. These people don’t go to the malls. They don’t have plumbing. They don’t have jobs. Food is scarce and not readily available. So how do they survive? Once again, family. They beg as a family and they suffer as a family. Yet even though they don’t have much, they are content. Their family bond is what helps them to get through the day and counters the negative effects of poverty like exploitation, sickness and lack of education.
It also shocked me that both male and female employees in Customs at the airport would forget about their stern faces and “coo” at my 23 month old daughter. Even in restaurants male and female servers would love to talk to my daughter as if I was at a family reunion!
Filipinos prove that rich or poor, happiness is achieved by nurturing relationships. In a world of materialism, wealth is misconceived as the accumulation of things. However, true wealth is the balance of material goods, family, spirituality and personal fulfillment. Wealth equals Health. A positive environment filled with a positive support system make life’s struggles short-lived so that life can go on. Evaluate your relationships and relate them to your wealth quotient. Make the adjustments necessary to bring your life into balance and happiness will come to you.
They say that you can’t truly give love to another or to your work until you love yourself. Inner peace, joy, health and true happiness will not unfold until you make the steps to live a healthy lifestyle. As a treat for Valentine’s Day, I’d like to share with you two personal images that have definitely opened my eyes.
Whenever I feel balanced in my life, hearts show up in my food. The above pictures are two examples of this and are NOT products of photo post production! It started when I was pregnant with my daughter 2 years ago and ever since, they show up in waves. Now, they even show up in my surroundings.
We all have personal signs that resonate inner happiness. For me they are hearts.
Take care of your body. Slow down, BREATHE, take a moment to journal, DE-CLUTTER your mind and surroundings, EXERCISE, stretch, and receive BODY WORK like massage, chiropractic or acupuncture that will help you to get IN TUNE with your body.
BALANCE the mind, body and soul.