Here’s a brainstorm for enhancing life.
I’ve been experiencing chronic pain for the last three months in addition to stressing out and being more anxious than I normally am. I started physical therapy today, leading me to consider a full lifestyle refresher. I wrote this list to remind myself of some basic truths, developed for a clean living reboot.
6 clean eating and consciousness raising practices to alleviate pain, anxiety, and stress.
Eat a diet largely comprised of fruits and vegetables. Duh, right? Fresh foods require regular shopping, hands on preparation, and more money than eating processed, ready to go foods. These are the main barriers that stop us from eating this way. A trick that I’ve developed to make clean eating less tedious is to steam and cut vegetables as soon as they’re brought home, which allows me to turn them into a snack or meal in no time. When getting started, it’s important to realistically evaluate how many fruits and veggies my partner and I can go through to eliminate costly waste. Starting with a small shopping list and scaling up as we replace processed foods with fresh produce works for us.
Using UCLA’s body scan guided meditation, evaluate how the body feels once or twice a day. Shifting the focus away from the demanding, achy mental and physical parts of ourselves is helpful. My pain becomes less encompassing when I realize that most of my body doesn’t hurt at all, and actually feels good. This meditation eases you into relaxation, and offers a break from tension and stress. It is a simple free practice for enhancing your life.
Shed some pounds, maybe, but diet because you love yourself- not because you want to change yourself. Healthy eating is often about losing weight. Weight loss can be life changing. It can also take over your life. I have a great body which has always served me well. My weight has gone up, it’s gone down, and naturally ebbs and flows with my valuable, exciting life. Body shaming is a national past time, and at thirty two, I am mature enough to reject it. Breaking this cycle requires me to question my motive for weight loss. Is it to be sexier? Is there a better goal? How about being able to canoe in the Boundary Waters at seventy five? Yes.
Walk out the door and spend some time moving, completely unplugged. I got a fancy smartphone for work in 2015. It’s awesome. With it comes an unusual urgency to engage constantly. I have made the conscious decision to spend one hour a day tech free. This gives my mind room to roam free, and allows me to observe and connect with my surroundings. I haven’t discovered a situation that can’t wait for one hour, or that can’t be anticipated by contacting a person ahead of time. I travelled for a month alone in Europe in 2002 at the age of seventeen. No cell phone. No laptop. My reasoning is, if I could do it then in a foreign country where English wasn’t the first language, I can do it now in my hometown for one hour.
The foods/drinks that are most loved are best enjoyed in moderation. I love culinary luxuries. Coffee. Hot spaghetti. Whisky. Cape Cod potato chips with Red Hots in them. I hold the common belief that if one is good, twenty must be better. Not true! When I refused to be parted with my best friend as a child and would hide in her house, my mother sang a song called “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?” This can be crooned to a bag of chips or a pot of spaghetti. Consider the reworked wisdom ‘absence makes the heart grow stronger’. It’s fitting, as the toll that a regularly consumed bag of chips has on the heart is significant. Another pearl of wisdom- anticipation is a key component to enjoyment.
When experiencing pain, anxiety, or stress, focus on breathing and being present in the moment.
I have struggled with an acute fear of flying for years, an anxiety connected to a lack of control. When I was flying back from Los Angeles last Friday, we had a bumpy ride. My heart started pounding, my palms started sweating. I was unbearably uncomfortable and knew that there were still hours left in the flight. What did I do? I closed my eyes and did my body scan. I slowed my breathing, then my heart rate, while clearing my mind. The turbulence suddenly felt less exaggerated, the plane felt less sinister. I was okay because I was in the moment and, in reality, I was comfortable, safe, and in a situation that was being controlled by trained pilots and an excellent flight staff. The danger that I had created in my mind seemed real enough, but when I assessed the situation, I found it to be fabricated. Grounding in the present is a vital tool that I use when intense stress and anxiety hit me. Normally, my fear of what could happen and the truth of what is happening are divergent paths that will never to meet.