Category Archives: health

The tidal pool of Mid-life

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Not a tidal pool, but I did have to sit there and be patient when I really wanted to do other things. 

I knew somehow that this year would be different than last year. I just had a feeling it was going to be hard. I knew it would be a year of NOT doing things, a lot of waiting , patiently and impatiently , healing, paying for last year’s experiences.  Last year was not as fun as  than the year before, a lot LESS doing things, more waiting, more restrictions on spending and eating and speaking.  The rising wave of my running and racing and traveling had finally peaked and was on the downside and the next wave was closer to shore and smaller. My body and my bank account were flattened out and were tossed onto the shore with overuse injuries and exhaustion and credit card debt. My family was watching from beach chairs with grim faces. There was one last wave that carried me with my two sons to a snowy vacation in Utah before the ocean went as smooth as a lake.

I’ve written about my ankle injury and having to end my nearly three-year run streak and how difficult that was. I’ve written about feeling caged and trapped in my role as caregiver. I’ve touched on hormone issues. And now I am facing the reality of my age and likelihood that I will be having surgery to deal with some debilitating female issues. Along with this has been a constant battle to remain faithful in trusting God, content and peaceful in my trials and patient with the people in my life that have their own trials and need my help. This stage of life, peri-menopause, has really put my character to the test. God says we will be go through these trials and that He will be with us, but it’s up to us to keep trusting Him. It’s not always easy to fight the fleshly tendency to want to pack a suitcase or backpack and head off into the sunset. I did that once when I was a teenager and it didn’t solve any problems. I had to come back to new ones.

One of my weaknesses is to panic when I feel out of control and right now is a good example of that. I am waiting on test results and a phone call from my doctor and I am not a good waiter. The way doctors drag things out when you are urgently needing some good news is like torture . I’ve already been waiting since last week for my blood test results, and the phone has been silent! But thankfully I do have a habit of asking people to pray for me and today I really felt the prayers and a peace came over me. The peace that passes understanding. This verse is so helpful to me.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness[d] be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phillipians 4:4-7

This new health issue is not really new, it just got worse and has been affecting my daily life, something that I’ve learned from the internet is very common. If you aren’t aware of female health problems, you might be shocked at what woman are suffering through and still going about their lives.  Women are TOUGH!  We know that we have to be tough because most of us do not have anyone willing to take care of us. If I have this surgery, that is a big question mark, who is going to take over my responsibilities while I recovery.  Part of me says everything will work out and I’ll be okay, but the truth is it could be a long haul.  I don’t like long hauls. I want to go run and have fun like I’m 30 years old, but I’m not. Only 100 years ago women of my age were considered pretty ancient. The positive thinking movement likes to ignore the physical changes in mid-life as if they can be wished away, but sadly that is not true. When women , and men, experience decreasing levels of various hormones, we will feel the results in many ways. Some are luckier and more adaptable to change than others and may not notice them so much. I do not want to fade off into the sunset yet ! I was a late bloomer and I still have many goals for myself. In fact I have a lot of stuff on my calendar for the next 4 months.

But, God is in control . He is still on the throne. I can trust him to carry me through whatever he wants me to go through.

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3 things you should stop being afraid of

In my experience over many years of trying to help people who are chronically anxious and afraid, I have seen many similarities in their fears. I’ve also struggled  with these fears and I have compassion for my fellow sufferers. But it’s good to put a name to them and to FIGHT them and CRUSH them even though it takes time to really KILL them. 

The most common fear is, 1. FEAR OF REJECTION.  This usually becomes an issue for people who were threatened with or felt that they were in danger of a withdrawal of love, approval, affection, praise, or even food and shelter if they did something that their parent or caregiver did not like. The adult in their life was probably simply acting out the way they were raised or taught and didn’t mean to hurt the child, but the child’s sensitive emotions were caught in a cycle of fear leading to either anxiously trying to keep the love and approval or outright giving up as a self-defense mechanism. For example: Billy’s dad is always criticizing how, when, what and with who Billy does things. Billy does not understand what his dad wants from him and becomes fearful and eventually decides it’s impossible to please dad. Billy generalizes this fear to other people in his life whose opinion and approval he values, such as friends and teachers and maybe even strangers. If things go especially wrong, he may even become paranoid that no one likes him and he is a total failure. This is tragic! And all because of a lack of proper communication with a sensitive spirit at a young age.

However, Billy can learn to change his emotional reactions, self-abasing thoughts, and push himself into new, healthy ways of thinking about himself and other people that are not so black and white. He can realize that SOME people DO like him , even if others do not, and that it’s okay if some people do not want to be his friend or even hate him. It’s not his problem. He can move on and still accept himself.

The second , usually co-existing fear is 2. FEAR OF FAILURE. This doesn’t require much explanation. A person is so afraid of making a mistake and being ridiculed or experiencing the emotions that come along with making a mistake when someone is overly anxious about such things, it can feel painful and awful and paralyzing, that the person will not try to do anything he is not sure he can do. I believe it is the internal feelings of guilt and shame that they avoid even more than the possible ridicule of others. Even if no one laughs or says a word, they will tear themselves down , sometimes using truly self-destructive methods.  I have seen people who seem to actually do this on purpose, makes mistakes and then self-abuse, but that’s a topic for another day.

How can you overcome fear of failure? The first step is to admit it, recognize that you have this fear, call it out, set it on the table and look at it. Ask yourself why do you care so much? It’s irrational and you know it . Begin to separate it from your identity. You don’t have to hold on to that way of thinking about yourself, that idea that if you make mistakes you are a terrible person and that everyone is judging you and talking about you and hates you. The truth is that after you graduate from high school, not too many people really care about what you do. Your parents might and that can be a problem for many people. It’s important to separate your self-worth from what your parents and others think of you. You have value. Your value is not dependent on other’s approval. Your value is not dependent on you being perfect. Fight those irrational thoughts! Replace them with true thoughts such as “Everyone makes mistakes. I am just like other people. I am not different or bad. Other people like me. ”

It’s hard to choose the last one, but I will pick 3. Fear of Conflict. Many people live their lives in fear of this! They will choose their words and actions very carefully to keep the peace even if it means not being true to themselves. Children who grow up in angry or overly critical or chaotic atmospheres can become so fearful and sensitive to the slightest disapproval or disagreement that they are constantly avoiding and seeking to prevent these things from happening. “Angry dad” is a stereotypical joke that is not funny. Children and wives/husbands should not have to walk on eggshells and limit themselves to only speaking about safe topics to avoid touching off dad’s/mom’s short fuse. This is a form of abuse in my opinion. Unfortunately, once the child is grown up this habit can remain strong even if they are no longer living in this environment. The fear of anger and chaos remains because it was never addressed. It can also lead to the person using those same tactics of control through anger, which is just as bad or worse.
This fear is closely connected with the other two and must be addressed in order to become a healthy, conscious, self-aware person who is capable of loving others and communicating honestly.  The technique is to identify whether there is actual danger or not and learn to self-talk yourself through the irrational fear of someone else’s emotions. If you are living with a person who is truly willing to hurt you if you step out of line (in their opinion), you should leave. But oftentimes, I find that verbal bullies are really wimps and will back down if you defend yourself calmly and regularly. Show no fear! Be willing to engage in a disagreement if necessary, but don’t argue with fools. If someone tries to scare you with loud voices or threats, evaluate whether you think they will actually back it up or is it just a little dog barking? People like that usually have a weakness. Find it and use it if necessary, but for your own sake, don’t stay in that atmosphere longer than you have to. Go where you can have peace and open communication and freely discuss ideas without being shut down. Your life is worth it.

In conclusion , fear of rejection, fear of failure and fear of conflict can totally paralyze a person and leave them stuck for years. But with awareness of your fears and willingness to change YOURSELF, you can regain your power. If you need professional help, get it. But don’t stay stuck.

Your thoughts and opinions about this article are welcome! Please check out my other blogs about anxiety and life. 

Your fascinating brain and how to make it work better

The brain is a fascinating organ. (This post is from my observations and knowledge gleaned. I am not a doctor. ) When God originally created the first humans, Adam and Eve as they are named in the Bible, he made their brains perfect and they functioned as they should, with no disease or chemical imbalance or malformations. Yet Adam and Eve STILL made a poor, life-altering decision. This to me is proof that they had selfishness built into them from day one and of course God knew that they would sin against his simple rules.

People today do not have perfect brains. We are all born with some problem or other,  at the very least, the eventual inevitable degeneration of our bodies, including our brains, that will lead to death. Some are born with worse problems, such as my daughter, whose brain did not finish developing in utero, so she has a condition called Lissencephaly, or smooth brain. Some develop problems later due to other diseases, such as encephalitis or dementia, or they may have mental/emotional conditions such as schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, psychosis, and others that are generally  passed down genetically and often related to metabolic conditions elsewhere in the body.

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My sweet daughter

When a person commits a crime of violence or suicide or doesn’t otherwise act ‘normal’ , they may be called crazy or evil or lazy or various other words. I’m not saying evil doesn’t exist, I believe it does,  but in many cases I think it is at least worth considering the conditions leading up to the crime or act and determining if the person’s brain was in fact not functioning correctly.  Yes, people must be held responsible for most actions, but there are cases where the person was in psychosis or hallucinating or otherwise incapable of making decisions. Post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries can both cause bizarre behavior. Abnormal behavior can be seen as well in babies born from drug-addicted mothers, babies neglected from birth, people living in war-zones and people affected by diseases and things such as lead poisoning and Lyme disease and chronic alcoholism.

There are many interesting, yet sad and difficult, cases of people whose brains have become injured in accidents or are affected by drugs, alcohol, chemicals, allergies, fatigue, hypothermia, heat stroke, heart disease, diabetes and liver disease.  All of these can result in bizarre behaviors that are unusual for the individual. For instance, people may have hallucinations, memory loss, be unable to speak, walk, or see normally, faint, have seizures, angry outbursts, violent or aggressive behaviors, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and nightmares, all because of some temporary or permanent brain malfunction. In some cases the person may be blamed unfairly for their actions that they really had no control over.

The scientific world has barely scratched the surface on understanding the brain. But there is a world of anecdotal information on how changing ones diet, reducing exposure to chemicals, and improving sleep habits can improve many of the problems listed above. For example, the Feingold Diet was one of the early diets created to address the correlation for some people with food additives and hyperactive, aggressive, out of control behavior. Ask any parent of a hyperactive child and they will tell you that there are certain foods ( like Skittles candy or Kool-aid, or apples)  that they would never feed that child because of the awful reactions they would have to deal with. The Wheat Belly book was revolutionary for many people who had no idea that eating wheat  was causing so many of their physical and mental health issues, as well as weight gain. For almost any of the diets that make a big difference in people’s mental health, the main factor is removing the highly processed foods , which almost every type of diet will do. Eliminating packaged, factory made ‘food’ such as cookies, crackers, bread, canned soups, noodles, frozen snacks, sodas, chips and ice cream can and will improve anyone’s health, including their brain health. 

One recent scientific finding is that eating carbohydrates , as in sugar and bread, pasta, etc. is related to Alzheimer’s Disease. This is a huge breakthrough. Another brain related diet factor recently acknowledged, is that the low-fat diet that was recommended for years by doctors actually starved the brain of necessary nutrients. These two findings are just a couple of examples of ways that foods have unknowingly damaged the brains of millions of people.

Vitamins, mineral and amino acids and hormones are all part of a well-functioning brain. When we eat a poor, junk food, Standard American diet, we are depriving our brains of the fuel we need to think clearly, be in control of our emotions, make good decisions, have energy, and feel good in general. Two nutrients that millions of people should be supplementing daily are magnesium and Vitamin D. Taking magnesium not only helps with muscle cramps, constipation, blood pressure and migraines, but also depression! This is one that I personally recommend to everyone. Vitamin D deficiency is very common as well and many doctors are recognizing this and testing for it.  The B vitamins are also very helpful for depression and energy.

Sleep deprivation is a common problem in our always busy society. More people are staying up late on their electronic devices and not getting good sleep. This can lead to depression , clumsiness, and poor decision making, as well as weight gain. The brain needs to rest to function well. It’s important to not eat right before bed, not be on electronics, and not drink alcohol at bedtime, all of which affect sleep quality and rest.

Most of us have the seen the change in behavior of a sober person who becomes intoxicated. They may become the life of the party, talkative, joking, dancing, affectionate, or they may become aggressive, angry, depressed , or even act like a completely different person. The long-term effects of alcohol on the brain and body can be devastating to health.

https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.htm

Another way the brain can be affected is by prescription medications. Many medications have side effects such as depression, anxiety, irritability, nausea, problems with vision, sleeping, and even suicidal thoughts. It is very important to read the information with your prescription and even do your own online research. Even antibiotics and anti-fungal drugs can have these side effects. Be your own advocate and protect yourself.

Lastly, some of us are unfortunately born with genetic predispositions to certain mental and emotional difficulties that greatly impact our lives. Some of these are metabolic conditions and some are probably more structural such as a small tumor.  Some people also develop conditions over time such as thyroid disorders and hormonal imbalances that are probably genetic and also influenced by diet and exercise or extreme stress.  Some may need medication to deal with these conditions. Other may get enough relief by exercise, diet, sleep and stress management techniques or counselling. Prayer and spiritual beliefs can be helpful as well.

Our brains can be marvelous, creative, and full of good feelings, or they can make us miserable, angry, tired and sad when we are not taking good care of our health or are struck with some infection or disease. Do all you can to protect your most important bodily organ and educate yourself.  If you feel bad and your doctor tells you , “It’s all in your head”, it just might be! Ask, demand, to have some tests performed that check the functioning of your thyroid, liver, vitamin levels, allergies, etc and if the first tests come back normal, as for more specific ones. Don’t just accept a prescription drug when conclusive evidence has not been shown that you need that drug.  The majority of doctors have strong incentives to save money for insurance companies by limiting testing and make money for pharmaceutical companies by prescribing.  Likewise, don’t blame your problems on your brain if you feed it junk and don’t get enough sleep.

 

The Summer Solstice, anxiety and what to do about it

I am a university educated, non-pagan,  Christian living in a modern society. I don’t believe in Mother Earth or that the Universe is God or vice versa. I don’t read horoscopes for advice on daily living or otherwise. HOWEVER…. I do believe that God in His infinite wisdom is a God of order and patterns. The Bible, aka the Holy Scriptures, are full of examples of this. For instance, from the beginning when God created the world, He made it have a 24 hour day, a 7 day week and seasons based on the rotation of the earth and it’s journey around the sun. He created gravity which influences everything. He created our human bodies which respond to other things he created such as barometric pressure, humidity, temperature, light, darkness, and wind. All of these things are external to our bodies , yet you don’t hear much about them when you read about mental health.

SAD , seasonal affective disorder, is a psychiatric diagnosis given to people who get depressed during the winter when they don’t get enough sunlight and their vitamin D levels drop, and probably other changes  that are not measured. This is one condition that has been recognized by the medical field, but is not given much attention unless the sufferer finally seeks helps. Thankfully it does seem to be more acknowledged than it used to be. This condition, in my opinion, is happening year round now that more people are afraid of skin cancer and also because children and adults alike are spending much more time indoors on the internet. One thing everyone can do is take quality Vitamin D3 supplements. I do suggest getting your levels checked first if you have that option. Many people benefit from fairly high doses. Do your research. I am not a doctor.

On to the main topic, seasonal changes. Just when you are getting adjusted to a new hotter or colder temperature and longer or shorter days, it starts to change again! I know some people are not as sensitive to these things,  but those people don’t read articles like this.  I believe that God uses seasons to keep us from getting too comfortable with worldly life. Today is June 11. In Texas, it has been even hotter than normal. As in 90s and above with very high humidity.  Last month was fairly pleasant as far as weather , if you’re used to Texas weather, and people seemed mostly happy.  But as we get closer to June 21, the first day of Summer, I’ve notice a lot of irritability. But I don’t really think it’s the heat that is making them grouchy. I think it’s the upcoming Summer Solstice.

What is the Summer Solstice? It’s the longest day of the year , meaning the most time elapsed from sunrise to sunset.  And the Winter Solstice is the shortest day.  Like I said, I am not a pagan , but I am aware that pagans celebrate these days. I believe pagans have corrupted all God-given things by ascribing perverted rituals and nature/god worship to the creation instead of the Creator, just as pagans have distorted and abused the God-given gift of sex and love. In fact, pagans of the past, and even now, use sex as part of their worship of their false gods. God hates this idolatry and punished and punishes it severely.  That’s a topic for another day.

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What does this have to do with Summer, and seasons in general? Just as humans are affected by having too little light in the Winter, and by the phases of the moon, they are affected by the seasonal changes and long bright days of the Spring and Summer. You’d think the effects of warm weather and sunny days would be mostly positive and I think it is, but I think this time of year can create anxiety in people. Spring and Summer is when God intends for people to be productive and actively preparing for Fall and Winter. If a person is trapped indoors at a desk job or otherwise stuck in a non-productive, toxic or sinful lifestyle, this season, just like Winter,  will cause discontent and unease. People may not know what is wrong , but they feel like they should be doing something. This feeling can build and build. If you follow the worldly ways, you will seek relief in the usual numbing addictions, entertainment, food, alcohol, sex, internet, TV, etc. , instead of doing productive activity and spending time outside and in  the deep soul-searching, prayer, and evaluation that we all  need to do to keep growing into the person God made us to be.  You will feel anxiety because you are resisting God’s will. If you will trust God and seek His will, you will find peace and freedom!

What is God’s will? To put Him first in your life and to grow into a godly person.  You will find that daily living by the power of the Holy Spirit will reap great awards. He will help you shed the shackles of sin and your pet idols and fear of man. How do you do that? First you must know Jesus and receive the free gift of salvation by confessing that you are a sinner and need Jesus to make you right with God. Then you begin to learn about Him and His ways and , yes, His rules for right living. We are not saved by those rules, but they are what God wants because they are for our good. The more you get to know God, the more you will see what a good and loving Father he is! He has your best interests in mind. Then your faith and trust will grow and you will be able to hear the Holy Spirit as he guides you daily. All Christians have the Holy Spirit in them, but not all Christians listen to him. Please note that I am not talking about ‘going to church’ or ‘religion’. Knowing Jesus is neither of those. If you’re new to all of this, I suggest first reading the book of John or any of the gospels of Matthew, Mark , or Luke. Or you may want to read Genesis first. You can read it online. Here is one source.

My prayer is that if you are feeling out of sorts or even if you’re not, that you will seek the Lord and find Him and begin to live for and by him. Feel free to post questions in the comment section if I can help.

It’s your hormones, really!

I’d like to post something a little different than my usual posts. As we all know women ( and men, but this post is about women) can be very moody. Happy one day, depressed or tired or angry or crying the next. And this is pretty much the description of most young people from age 10 (the age is getting younger due to our food supply)  to  early to mid 20s when they level out.  A roller coaster ride of energy levels, emotions, thoughts and motivation with some  Life is good!  upper level days and some Life is crap low level days.

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Me on top o’ the world! I felt great, not even deep mud and my running partner deserting me could bring me down that day.

What not all women are informed about is the details of what is causing these specific feelings. Yes, it is your hormone levels but wouldn’t you like to know more? Rather than giving you all the details here , I am going to recommend a free app that is very good for keeping you up to date on what is happening in your body and bloodstream and how that causes these changes in your moods, thoughts, sexual desire, clothing choices, appetite, etc. But basically you feel strong and energetic when you have plenty of estrogen and testosterone and you feel sleepy and hungry with lots of progesterone.

This is not my app and I don’t get a commission or anything. Here is the link.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hormone-horoscope-lite/id710914595?mt=8

There are other similar apps and I first used one called Mood Horoscope. But I find that the other one is much more accurate and detailed.

If you can’t get the app or prefer reading, there is tons of info online.

Why would you want to know what is going on in your body? Because it can protect you from making impulsive, life-changing decisions when you are feeling extra happy or doing something self-destructive when you are extra sad. I have actually wondered if I still love my husband at times and sure enough, when I checked this app, it was that time when I should be feeling very irritable due to a sudden drop in all my hormones. The more you become familiar with your body, the more power you have. You can also decide if your mood swings indicate a hormone imbalance and you may need to make some changes in your life such as diet, exercise, supplements,  hormone treatments, sleep, etc. Also you can be aware that certain days are better than others for certain goals and activities. I am not saying you should be a slave to your hormones or moods. Try to make it work for you in your planning. No one wants to run a terrible marathon just because they are zapped of energy due to their hormones . Plan accordingly or take steps if necessary to improve your chances of success. Plan job interviews, speeches, and parties for the second week of your cycle. Do not plan a busy schedule for the days that you feel extra fatigued. Using a calendar or another app to note your personal schedule can be helpful.

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Me, having a rough race,  stressed, dehydrated, exhausted, not realizing that part of the reason was I was about to start my period .

It’s also interesting to note that not all women have these extreme cycles. And some women do have them but refuse to acknowledge that fact for some reason.  I do have a condition called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome( somewhat controlled by my low carb diet) , which is quite common unfortunately, and it causes me to be very sensitive metabolically to these changes. For instance right now I am on a very good cycle day and have been for the past few days. Sadly I know it will be ending soon because I am mid-cycle. I will try hard not to let the impending drop in hormones ruin my next weekend. But I already know that I will not have the same energy or motivation that I had last weekend. I will  feel more like eating and sleeping! Interestingly though, is that some ( not all)  women get a short burst of good feelings, energy and sex drive right before their periods start when progesterone drops but they still have some estrogen.

And one last thought, our hormones are also affected by sleep and nutrition, so take care of yourself!

PS , if you’re a man, I hope this helps you have some compassion for your wife or girlfriend and what she goes through every month as her body prepares itself for pregnancy month after month from about the age of 12 until she is about 50 or so.  It’s all part of God’s plan to preserve the human race.