Tag Archives: Stress

Operation Chrysalis Update…

As many of my readers already know, I have embarked on a course of healthy eating and exercise over winter in an effort to emerge in spring time significantly thinner and more glamorous.  Today’s blog is an update on that process, which I christened Operation Chrysalis.

chrysalis

Wednesday was weigh in day at the slimming class I attend.  It was not good news.  It was like every week in January really.  I have either put weight on, or I have maintained the weight loss.  Okay, it was a pound that I put on, and in the grand scheme of things, it could have been much, much worse.  But, I have given myself a target to reach for my second stone coming off, and that date is fast approaching.  I can feel things slipping away from me, and I am DAMNED if it is going to happen to me this time.

My body is doing what it always does.  I lose a stone and then it decides it is going to creep back up again.  And yes, I am still following the diet and no, I haven’t gone back to bad eating habits.  But something isn’t going right.  Now, the old me would have decided to say “to hell with it” and go and eat junk food – not entirely sure why, because I don’t like it and it makes me feel decidedly icky.  But not this time.  No, this time, the new me, has decided to arrest the downward slide and get back on the path of righteousness… or at least the path of losing weight.

always

My group leader has given me a pep talk, and suggested I go back to basics.  On this diet plan I am on that means writing EVERYTHING down.  If it passes my lips it goes on the sheet.  I have just done the food I have eaten so far today, and I know I am on the right lines today.  The thing is, I need to do this for all my food over the next week.  It takes commitment, but it will be worth it, I know it will, so I just need to keep it up.  I am trying to jazz up the process by using a funky coloured pen.  It is bright pink ink.  So far, its working!  I am willing to try anything!

If the weight gain has been because of food choices, the food diary will show it.  If however, my body is doing its thing of holding on to weight because I am stressed… well, I need to find some way of reducing the cortisol flying about my body.  My track record of finding positive ways of reducing stress is not great – my previous favourite way of letting off steam was to go out on the tiles and get drunk.  No… not a good way of doing things.  Alcohol has a HEAP of calories in it anyway.  No, there has to be a better way.

Exercise DVD

I have therefore decided to use some of those old exercise DVDs which have been lying around the place gathering dust.  I actually mean this literally and not figuratively… some have never even seen the light of day!!  So… I am going to put them to one side, set up the DVD player and when I feel like I am going to pop with the stress, then I am going to burn through some workouts.  Hopefully it will help both the cortisol levels AND the weight loss.

Stay tuned, to see if it works!

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Eating right and feeling calmer…

Can you tell that managing stress is really up there for me at the moment?

stressed comic

I know it seems like I keep harping on about it, but I am really aware that January is a stressful month for many people.  In my life at the moment, I am desperately attempting to get organised so I can cope if I go back to work, plus I am preparing for a job interview and I am painting the hallway in the new house.  I need as much help as I can get in managing those stress levels right now.

Getting stressed and anxious is less about what is happening outside, but more about the reaction inside.  But managing the stress levels and anxiety is not just regulating your reaction; what you eat can have a major impact on how you feel when confronted with those ARGH moments that we all get from time to time.

no sugar

The bad news is that the things you might think would work a treat (sugar, chocolate, chips) are precisely the things you should avoid.  They actually stress your nervous system and therefore should be avoided at all costs.  The good stuff though, the stuff which supports your nervous system, is the stuff you know you should be eating.  Ideally you should be eating alkalizing foods like fresh sprouts, high quality protein, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, root vegetables and cultured milk products such as yogurt, kefir or buttermilk.  Lemons are good as well as grapefruit, nuts and seeds.  If you want to have a healthy nervous system, then you need energy, and these foods will provide that.

The other things you need to do is to add calcium to your diet.  You need calcium to have healthy nerve function, and this is what we are aiming for.  If you have too little calcium in your blood, then you might be nervous, irritable, get muscle spasms, get muscle cramping, be hyperactive and probably not sleep very well.  Thankfully getting calcium in the diet is fairly simple.

green leafies

Obviously dairy products helps.  It helps more if they are cultured.  Plain milk has surprisingly little calcium in it, so choose yoghurt instead.  You can also eat lots of green leafy vegetables such as spinach. chard, broccoli, turnips greens, kale, beet greens and parsley.  Surprisingly large amounts of dietary calcium can be found in seaweed as well.  To be honest, taking in calcium rich foods is going to have very little effect unless you also have adequate levels of Vitamin D.  Either get out into the sunshine, no matter how cold or watery it is at this time of year, or take a supplement.  I take a supplement with added calcium in it.

If you are feeling like things are all getting on top of you and you are struggling to cope, then you might want to consider making a high quality calcium tea.  You take 1 part horsetail, 1 part nettle and 1 part oats.  Combine the herbs, pour boiling water over them and leave to steep for 5-15 minutes, depending on how strong you like it.  Strain the herbs and add honey to taste and then drink it all up.  If that doesn’t sound appetising (and to me, it really doesn’t!) consider taking some herbs with high quality calcium in them.  Chickweed, Amaranth and Dandelion Greens are good sources, must so are Mustard Greens, Horsetail, Nettle, Oats and watercress.  A lot of those will be easier to get hold of come the spring!

Still, there are a lot of lovely foods to choose from.

How is 2015 treating you so far?

Most people I know went back to work on Monday.  Most people I know felt like they hadn’t been away by the back end of Tuesday.  For myself, because I don’t work in an office environment, I have spent the first week of 2015 attempting to get myself organised.  I am not sure if it has worked, but I do feel as if I have been chasing my tail all week.  In fact, I have that feeling that I might meet myself on the way back, if you know what I mean?

chasing tail

Don’t get me wrong, everything I have been doing has been important and necessary work.  But goodness me, there is so much of it.  As soon as I organise one bit… I need to rush off and organise another bit.  If this is the way the year is going to go… I can imagine myself being something of a stress bunny by the end of March, let alone December!

And add into the mix the chance that I might actually be heading back to the world of work (I have an interview next Friday!).  Hello stratospheric work stress levels.  I am going to need some herbal assistance methinks.  So, I headed off to my new herbal bible to see what Rosemary Gladstar has to say on the matter.

stress management

Ms Gladstar is very sensible actually.  She points out that a lot of people get depressed after going through long periods of stress, and that if you treat the symptoms of the depression, rather than the root cause of the stress, then you are not going to get to the bottom of the problem.  She points out that relaxation is the best way of getting rid of stress, so whatever your favourite method is, use it.  It could be hot soaky baths.  It could be praying to your deity of choice, or for us Catholics, spending time at Adoration.  It could be drinking a cup of herbal tea.  It could be knitting, sewing or crocheting something.  It could be reading a book.  It could be digging a border or bed in the garden.  It could be planting seeds.  Whatever that makes your shoulders come down from around your ears, do it.

There are some herbs which can help though, some of which are known as nerve tonics.  Really what they do is to help rebalance the nervous system, and of course stress is one of those things which makes the nervous system get all whacked out of line anyway.  That “fight or flight response” doncha know.   One of the recipes in this section is a Valerian tea blend.  I am all for a tea blend without chamomile in it.  Chamomile and I do not really mix – the last time I had it in a tea form I was ill for HOURS afterwards.  I would rather my relaxation herbal tea didn’t have that kind of violent emetic effect.

licquorice roots

So the recipe here contains a half part liquorice root, 2 parts lemon balm and 1 part valerian root.  All these things can be sourced online or at a good Herbal supplier.  Now, the liquorice root is kind of hard, so you first need to make a decoction of it.  So, place the root in a small saucepan and cover it with cold water.  Heat it slowly and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.  Take the pan off the heat, add the lemon balm and valerian root and infuse for 45 minutes.  Strain and then you can drink as much of it as you want, as often as you want.  I would be cautious though, the liquorice root can have a laxative effect.  You have been warned.

Have a relaxing weekend!  I am starting on the next house renovation project – painting the hallway.  Hopefully I will find that a relaxing activity!

A nice morning out and about…

We woke up to one of the first frosts of the autumn this morning… and autumn is very nearly over!  However, with such a lovely festive nip in the air, it was a delightful day for a trip out to a nearby town.

DH Lawrence

Eastwood is laden with local history, not least because it was the birthplace of DH Lawrence, of literary fame.  My Mother in Law took myself and my Mother to see a little sewing shop there, and frankly, it was a find.  A lovely find indeed actually.  I walked out with more crafty things to do and get on with (I really don’t need any more… but there you go… these things defy the laws of physics to come into my life… no, really they do!).  But the best thing was that feeling of having rosy red cheeks and really needing to have a warm pair of gloves and a scarf on.  Blissful!  🙂

We came home via a garden centre, which is always a good way of making me smile, and their Christmas section was a very tasteful display, and the best thing of all?  It started with all the nativity sets.  So nice to see them coming to the fore.  Anyway, we all purchased some bits and pieces and I am getting downright festive now.  So, I want to share with you some ideas for making the festive season a little less stressed and a lot more fun.

stockings

The first thing I did was have a look at what parts of Christmas I loved and what I didn’t.  I love the traditions.  I love Carol Singing and going to Church either at Midnight or on Christmas morning.  I love wrapping presents and giving people things they actually want and will use.  I adore baking Christmas foodie treats.  I love indulging in Christmas movies.  I love the smells I associate with the festive season (Apple, Cinnamon, Berries and Nutmeg mostly).  I LOVE turkey!!  And Cranberries.  So these are the things I want to have more of.

The things I don’t like include that rushed feeling of doing things all in the last week before Christmas like I did when I was working full time.  I don’t like feeling forced to buy lots of people lots of things, most of which they don’t really want and won’t use in any case.  I don’t like forgetting about advent and starting Christmas in September.  I don’t like houses lit up with lights that you just know are costing an absolute fortune (and lets not talk about the waste of electricity).  So, those are the things we don’t do much of.

Santa

And there… you have my secret of the holiday season.  Do what you like to do and don’t do what you don’t like to do.  This year I am going to make up some blessing bags for some homeless gentlemen who sit outside of the Cathedral where I attend Mass every week.  They are going to contain something to eat, some small change, a tooth brush, some toothpaste, a bottle of water and some wet wipes.  It isn’t much.  But it will be a blessing for them.  And it is a very good Advent thing for us to get involved in.

Eeeep! I nearly forgot!!

So after posting cute cats for yesterday, I totally forgot about the need to come and post a blog today.  It is still Sunday, so technically I haven’t ruined my so far perfect record.

Actually, I have spent my afternoon rolled up in a quilt on the sofa with a good book.  It wasn’t a work of great literature exactly, but it was easy to read and entertaining.  Plus lots of things got blown up and that suits my mood right now.

I have to tell you that at the moment, I am feeling more than a little overwhelmed.  There is so much going on and so much that has to be done, and there are only 24 hours in the day.  I just don’t know how to carve out any more time in that 24 hours for getting everything done, and to do everything that I need to do.

I have had a look on Youtube, because I hear it is a source of all kinds of things.  The best advice on Youtube?  Use it for finding videos of cute cats and tutorials on how to do crafts.  But the advice on what to do if you are overwhelmed?  No.  Not so much help.  Lots of stuff about delegating to your staff members, or turning off your emails, or not being available 24/7 if you are at work or starting your own business, but not so much about what if you are a homemaker and trying to study, adopt a child, keep a house, keep a garden, make sure you are eating right, keeping three animals alive and well, making sure that Christmas is organised and is not a last minute rush, and somehow keeping three parents all happy and functioning –  all at the same time.  And that is a slow week.

I really do not have any answers at the moment.  If I get any, then I will let you know.  But right now?  I am off to whimper in the corner.  I seem to have tried all the tricks in my arsenal and I am coming up empty right now.

Normal blogging service will resume tomorrow, but a bit later than normal (hopefully earlier than tonight!) as I am out in the morning with two of the three parents.

“To sleep: perchance to dream”

That quote comes from Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet.  The Danish Prince thought that sleeping sounded a great idea.  It was the dreaming that caused problems.  Mind you, the guy was under some stress at the time, and that probably contributed to his nightmares.

hamlet

You may be relieved to know, that having nightmares is very normal.  Everyone gets them once in a while, but if they happen often and you wake up in a sweat, or worse, screaming, then it may be a reflection of something a bit worse at work.  Nightmares can be symptomatic of a psychiatric illness or distress of some kind and are often experienced by people who have sufffered some trauma, such as abuse, war or a natural disaster of some kind.  In Hamlet’s case, seeing your Dad assassinated probably fits into two out of those three categories.

Apparently nightmares are most common in children.  Specialists think it is because they find it difficult to process things cognitively, so if they have a sudden shock or see something they can’t make sense of, then nightmares can be the way that they process the information.  Nightmares, and other dreams, happen during periods of rapid eye movement sleep, so the scariness of the dream can jolt you awake and make you feel very disoriented.

nightmares

So how can you help prevent nightmares for the young or old?  Facing the cause of the nightmare is a good way of doing it.  If it is difficult to work out what is causing the nightmare, then try and work out what situations in your life are causing some stress and try and work out those situations in a positive way.

Another good piece of advice is to remove the scares.  If you do not like zombie movies and have nightmares after watching them, then… ummm… don’t watch them.  If you are like me, i.e. a complete wuss, then your range of pre-bedtime viewing is quite limited.   But I don’t like having nightmares either, so I would rather limit the viewing then freak out and leave my imagination to work it all out.

Apparently having a bedtime ritual is a good idea for limiting nightmares.  Do the same things every night at the same time.  If your child seems to have a nightmare at the same time every night, then waking them up slightly before the nightmare and then settling them down to sleep again is a great way of breaking the dreaming pattern and hopefully stop the regular problem.

bedtime snack

If you are an adult and get regular nightmares, look at your food and drink intake just before bed.  Do not drink alcohol at night, and do not eat before bed either.  It is not good for your dreams, and it isn’t good for the diet either.

A modern plague… and what you can do about it.

There is an idiomatic quirk of the locale where I live.  A lot of people, when discussing their ailments love to express that they “Suffer with Blood Pressure”.  It is at this point that my inner pedant rises up in protest.  You do not suffer with blood pressure; you absolutely and totally require blood pressure in order to survive.  It is what pumps the blood around the body.  What you actually suffer with is either high blood pressure, or low blood pressure.

high blood pressure

Either is equally nasty, to be honest.  In modern days however, it is high blood pressure which is something of a plague.  I have lost count of the people who have been diagnosed with it in my network of friends and family (including myself at one stage), so I think it is quite important to think about the causes of it and what we can do in our own home arsenal, before we take to the medical profession.

Doctors actually call high blood pressure the silent killer, because it rarely causes you any problems until something in the body gives out, like your heart or your kidneys.  Effectively, it is the result of your system getting overstressed due to something or other.  Shortness of breath and severe headaches can be a sign of high blood pressure, but the only sure way of telling if it is normal or elevated is by going to get it checked.  A good guide is to get it measured once a year.  You can go to the doctor for this, but equally you can purchase your own machine from the pharmacy, or you can use some publicly available machines if that is a service provided in your community. If you are a normal, healthy person should have a blood pressure of below 140 over 90.  The last time I was checked, for my adoption medical, I was 120 over 80.

hypertension

A few years before that, when I was 35 or so, I went to the doctor reporting symptoms of unexplained headaches, nausea, no energy whatsoever and inability to sleep.  She took my blood pressure, took it a second time because she didn’t believe the first reading and then told me that if I didn’t calm down I was going to have a stroke before I turned 40.  It’s a shame I can’t remember the reading from that occasion, but I know it was elevated.  I am rather proud that I never required drugs to keep it under control.

I did my research.  I knew which risk factors I had (overweight, stressed to the maximum, pretty crappy diet at the time, hardly any exercise because I was anchored to a desk all day at work) and I knew I needed to change things if I wanted to beat the beta blockers.  So if you are in this position yourself, here is what you do.

vegetables

First, overhaul your diet.  I will be honest, I am not the best at eating like an angel all the time.  If I was, then I would have lost this excess weight a long time ago.  But one thing I have done is cut out the excess salt in your diet.  You might recall a few years ago there was a big push from the medical profession to the food industry to stop putting extra salt in things?  That was because of this, and the link to heart disease.  So…  gradually cut out convenience foods out of my diet.

Consequently, I lost some weight, and that is also good for the blood pressure.  I could stand with losing some more, but that is for the sake of vanity rather than anything else.  I do not need to do so for my blood pressure to equalise.  Another good tip is to learn how to breathe properly.  A lot of people do not take as deep breaths as they should, due in part to appalling posture brought on by sitting for long periods in front of a computer screen.  Taking deep breaths, holding it and then releasing it slowly is actually a great technique for relaxation as well.  I actually know of one lady who was about to be put on beta blockers, but learning how to breathe properly meant that she was able to get her blood pressure down entirely without the aid of drugs.

walking

You also need to do some exercise.  Walking is one of the best exercises you can do, and a gentle walk for 30-45 minutes per day is perfect for getting the blood pressure down.  You need to do this at least 3 times per week and ideally walk steadily without a break.  The whole point is to exercise your heart for a sustained period.

Walking is also a great stress reliever and walking the family pet is also a great reason to walk places.  Having a pet and fussing it, and receiving love back from it, is a wonderful feeling.  I certainly noticed the difference on adopting two cats and a nutty dog!  Anything that relieves stress in a healthy way is fine – get out and see people, laughing at a funny movie, listening to music you enjoy, planting something in the garden  (well, I like that, anyway!).  Anything that can get your blood pressure down and lets you chill out.  After all, another phrase for high blood pressure is hypertensive.