Archive for ‘Stress Transformation’

January 1, 2020

Your 2020 “Givens”

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Annie Spratt

Happy New Year! 2020 – a round year to round out your list of “givens.” 

In order to manage my disease, I’ve developed a list of “givens,” – the things that allow me to live “companionably” with RA. This list has evolved over the years to include more self-care. I have also given myself time to incorporate it into my lifestyle. Suffice to say that I was not quite ready for some habits. Or perhaps the habits weren’t ready for me!

Here are some examples of the things on my list of givens:

  • Getting some form of exercise/movement each day. This could be as simple as putting on some tunes and dancing around the living room, going for a swim, doing Essentrics or venturing out for a walk. Cleaning also counts.
  • Choosing foods that are nutritionally sound, even if I slip up with some of those things on my “naughty, but nice list.” Ice-cream, chocolate….
  • Listening to my body and learning its language.
  • Making sure I get enough rest and sleep.
  • Transforming my stress.
  • With stress transformation, comes the realization that sometimes life, and RA, can get in the way of bowing down to my givens. If that’s the case, I pick up the list the next hour or the next day. The important thing is that I get back to it as soon as possible.

Driving in a New Direction in 2020

A new year and a new decade may just the catalyst you need to expand your list of givens that will drive you in a new direction. If your resolution list is as lengthy as your “Dear Santa List” once was, you may wish to pare it down to make it more manageable. You want to be successful at each step along the way.

Start small. Another option is to do this Start, Stop, Continue exercise that is reflective of where you’ve been, whether you wish to stay there and what needs fixing/adding/augmenting. 

For me, it is a better “vehicle” than that (often broken down) resolution list. This is the destination for 2020: New Year Renewal

What things are on your “given” list for 2020?

 

May 8, 2019

#571 – Live Better with RA – Tip #6

Tip #6 – Accentuate the Positive

We’re hard-wired to scan our environment for danger. Unfortunately, for some, our experiences have us performing this operation far too often.

In one study, optimistic subjects had increased cell-mediated immunity, whereas a drop in optimism showed a decrease in immunity. Other studies show that an optimistic attitude about aging can help people live longer, and optimistic cardiac patients are less likely to be readmitted to hospital.

One way to flip your perspective is by practicing gratitude on a regular basis. Another is to do stress techniques, which help to lighten the load and carry you into a better frame of mind.

More in This Series:

April 3, 2019

#568 – Live Better with RA – Tip #4

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Image courtesy of  Gail  Rau.

Tip #4 – Improve Your Sleep Hygiene

Relentless flares, disease-related anxieties, family issues, bills, noise, frustrations — just a sampling of the things that can keep you up at night. A lack of sleep can create a snowball of increasing sleeplessness, wreaking havoc on your RA. With a few important but relatively small changes, you can learn to cultivate good sleep habits, which may lead to a better night’s sleep.

Yeah, but How Do You Do That, Exactly?

  1. Transform your stress on a regular basis.
  2. Experiment to discover the time by which you should stop eating and using your electronic devices. Too close to bedtime and you might be too wired to sleep.
  3. Limit alcohol.
  4. Make your bedroom an electronics nogozone.
  5. Find the right bedding. For example, I prefer feather pillows, a down duvet and definitely not a soft comfort (Yeah, right!) mattress.
  6. Your bedroom ambience. For me: a cool, dark room is a must.
  7. Don’t count sheep, but instead, list all the things for which you are grateful.
  8. Practice cognitive shuffling: Choose a 5/6 letter word, such as “dream.” Now list as many words that you can think of for d, then r, and so on.
  9. Do a room inventory, once you’ve turned off the light. Slowly list everything that is in your bedroom. You might find you’re asleep before you are half-way around the room.
  10. Perhaps you have sleep apnea? Get tested.
  11. Support your jaw.
  12. Do you have painsomnia? Onboard strategies to help you manage your pain. See #1.
  13. Reset your sleep clock. Sometimes you’re simply going to bed too early. Stay up later and find your ideal bedtime.
  14. Medication can interfere with sleep. Talk with your doctor and pharmacist to discover solutions and options.
  15. A hormone deficiency may impact your sleep. Talk to your doctor about getting tested.
  16. Melatonin, 5-HTP and other over-the-counter products may induce sleep. Check with your doctor to see if these products are a good option for you.
  17. Your sleep hygiene routine may include a nap on the couch.
  18. Exercise – but at the right time for you. For example, I know if I exercise in the evening, I’m too wired to sleep.
  19. Laugh. Several hours before bed, I watched several YouTube videos of one of my favourite comedians, Michael McIntyre. No, he didn’t put me to sleep with his routine; he is laugh-out-loud funny with his observational humour. All that laughter changes your chemistry – for the better.
  20. Your turn: Please share what helps you fall asleep and stay asleep.

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March 22, 2019

#564 – Live Better with RA – Tip #1

SymptomGang

If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you are no stranger to its marauding gang of symptoms: aches, pains, brain fog, fatigue, insomnia, and stiffness, to name just a few. When you take care of your mind, body, and spirit, you might just find that your RA symptoms improve.  You can live better with RA with these 10 tips, which will be posted one at a time.

Tip #1 – Transform Stress

My journey with RA is definitely better since I’ve become Auntie Stress (AS), almost 13 years ago. I often joke that I am my own best client. However, neither RA, nor stress, are jokes. When I transform my stress, I am better equipped to manage my life.

Self-care becomes easier when your system isn’t flooded with stress hormones, which have a tendency to move you further away from what you want.

The Why

If you want to live well, it’s imperative that you learn strategies that help you break out of the stress cycle. Stress and RA have a direct influence on each other. Stress can increase inflammation. RA can increase stress.

If you’ve ever driven with someone who is stepping on the gas-brake-gas-brake-gas-brake, you’ll know how distressing that is. The 2 branches of your autonomic nervous system (ANS) – sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system, are operating in a similar fashion. Go-stop-go-stop-go-stop – it’s not a good feeling. This type of action tends to wear out the nervous system and sets up the scene for worsening health. Your system is disorderly and you pay the price.

Instead onboard techniques that can bring your nervous system into balance.

The When

Anytime. Anywhere. The beauty of these techniques is that they are not dependent upon waiting for a quiet room, after work, after school or a retreat. You can do them anytime once you know what to do.

The How

Employ a mindful, deliberate approach and use your feelings to help you navigate out of The Stress Zone. When you learn to manage your thoughts and feelings, you gain invaluable emotional management techniques that allow you to shift out of the Stress Zone. A change in perspective can result in an internal change.

For example, last week I awoke with a number of stiff and swollen joints – something I haven’t experienced in quite a long time.

Before AS

I would immediately jump into “Oh no, is this the start of a major flare? What am I going to do? What if…?” That sort of fear-based thinking put me into The Stress Zone. The Stress Zone triggers a cascade of hormones that are designed for flight or fight. Additionally, it also triggers the inflammatory response.

After AS

I regularly address and undress my stress. I am my own best client, after all! For example, last Friday, I awoke unusually stiff. I had rusty hinges for knees. My fingers were about as useful as sausages – they looked like them, too. Apparently I had marbles in my slippers – at least that’s what my feet felt like.

I knew that panicking, wondering and worrying if this was the start of a flare, especially since I hadn’t experienced this in quite some time, was not the best route to take. So, I started with a session on the Inner Balance. While I was doing that, I had ice packs and heat packs. I followed up with an easy swim, since exercise can help reduce inflammation. It didn’t take long and I was moving as well as I normally do.

Heart rate variability (HRV), is the way in which your heart speeds up and slows down. Learning to improve my HRV and regularly practising it has made a difference in my health and well-being.

Here’s what Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School’s blog, has to say in Heart rate variability: A new way to track well-being:

 If a person’s system is in more of a fight-or-flight mode, the variation between subsequent heartbeats is low. If one is in a more relaxed state, the variation between beats is high. In other words, the healthier the ANS the faster you are able to switch gears, showing more resilience and flexibility. Over the past few decades, research has shown a relationship between low HRV and worsening depression or anxiety. A low HRV is even associated with an increased risk of death and cardiovascular disease.

People who have a high HRV may have greater cardiovascular fitness and be more resilient to stress. HRV may also provide personal feedback about your lifestyle and help motivate those who are considering taking steps toward a healthier life.

Here is how technology (Inner Balance) helps me improve my HRV:

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I use this device on a daily basis to assist me in living my best life with RA. The techniques can be done without the device, however, there is power in having proof that I am in high coherence.

Are you curious about what this is showing you?

Level

There are four challenge levels. As you build coherence within your system, you are encouraged to move up into the next level, which is more challenging to do. In level one and two you can move into high coherence by changing the way in which you breathe. Level three and four require a willful letting go by changing your feeling state. 

Coherence

Coherence indicates synchronization between your cognitive, emotional and physiological systems.  When you are able to move out of low coherence into medium and/or high coherence you enjoy greater feelings of well-being, as well as increased immunity, and other physical and mental health improvements.

Coherence Over Time

This shows a real time picture of what is happening with the two branches of your ANS.

You can see where I dropped from high coherence to medium coherence at about 2:25. This is when my thoughts shifted to an ongoing family issue. That’s an example of how our ANS is influenced by how we think and feel.

HRV

HRV is the beat to beat way in which your heart speeds up and slows down. The smoother the rhythm, the more harmony within your system. Your heart is constantly speeding up and slowing down. When you take your pulse, or when you use the heart sensor on gym equipment you are getting an average, rather than your HRV.

I was unable to capture the entire session on my phone, but you can see the speeding up/slowing down rhythm of my heart.

Another Look

On The Language of Stress you can see a different picture of my use of technology. This time it’s the emWave, a desktop unit that I like to use before I sit down to do any writing.

I do have some specials on these. If you’re interested in the DIY of stress transformation, or stress coaching, please send me an email.

Watch for Tip #2.

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More in This Series:

With Gratitude

For Graham Shaw’s TED Talk video: Why people believe they can’t draw.

HeartMath is a registered trademark of the Institute of HeartMath.
emWave and Personal Stress Reliever are registered trademarks of Quantum Intech, Inc.
Inner Balance Trainer is a trademark of Quantum Intech, Inc.
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