I was watching a show on PBS the other night about a family in Turkey that had children who were incapable of walking upright; they walked on their hands and feet. The children ranged in age from the early 20s to the mid 30s and had never had a medical evaluation until the researchers showed up to learn about them. My partner and I started talking about how access to medical care for them could have made a world of difference to their walking ability. Here in the US, if a child wasn’t walking by say, 18 months, there would have been all kinds of tests, physical therapy, etc. (provided the parents could afford it or had good health insurance.) But that also started me thinking about so many things we take for granted in most of the country. (There are parts of the US that are like Third World countries: no running water, no electricity, no access to medical care. But if you have the ability to read this, you probably don’t live in one of those areas. ) We have reliable electricity; clean water; reasonably inexpensive ways to heat and cool our homes; dependable access to food; relatively inexpensive fuel for our cars. Well, I think you get the picture. There have been so many times I didn’t even think about how electricity gets to my home when I flipped on a light switch; or I have turned on the faucet without ever thinking about how my water is cleaned and sent to my house. There are so many things I take for granted; that my partner will be here waiting for me when I get home from work; my pets will be happy to see me; my kids and grandkids will call me often just to say hi, and on and on.
What do you take for granted?
Breathing is essential to life. But did you know that how you breathe can be important, too? Take an inventory, right now, of how your body is positioned as you’re reading this. Are you sitting up straight? Or are you slumped in your chair or hunched over the keyboard? If you are not sitting up straight, your lungs can’t expand to their full capacity, which means you are not taking in enough oxygen. Imagine a string attached to your body that goes up through the top of your head to the ceiling. Now make sure that string is in a straight line. You should be sitting with your back as straight as possible; your chin at a 90 degree angle to the floor; your shoulders relaxed; your feet flat on the floor so your thighs are parallel to the floor. This opens up your chest cavity and allows your diaphragm and lungs to expand properly. Sitting tense and hunched over a desk or computer keyboard will make you tired.
Place one hand on your abdomen. As you breathe in (through your nose, not your mouth) focus on moving your diaphragm so your hand moves outward. Now slightly open your mouth and ‘whoosh’ out your breath. Repeat. Did you feel your body relax as you exhaled? This is a simple breathing exercise you can do any time during the day to relieve stress. You only need to do this 2 or 3 times to feel more relaxed.
Here’s another one: Place the tip of the tongue between your 2 front upper teeth. Now breathe in through your nose to the count of 4 while focusing on your abdominal breathing; hold the breath for the count of 7; exhale through your mouth to the count of 8. This exercise should be done while lying down the first few times as it may make you feel dizzy if you are not used to deep breathing.
And finally: if you have trouble falling asleep because your mind won’t ‘turn off’ here’s an exercise to try. Breathing normally, count the number of times you exhale up to 4; then start again. So 1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4, etc. By focusing on your breathing, you are telling your mind to be quiet so you can relax and sleep.
Let me know if these work for you, or if you have other suggestions.
Thanks for reading!
Most of us make our decisions out of fear. Think about that for a minute; we make decisions out of fear. Now, before you start protesting, really think about it. Have you ever decided to take a job with benefits instead of the job you really wanted that didn’t have benefits? How about choosing a ‘sure thing’ rather than something that was iffy even though you weren’t really happy with that choice? Decided it was easier to stick with your current partner, even though things aren’t good, instead of getting out of the situation? Weren’t those decisions made from fear? Maybe it was fear of the unknown; or fear of failure; or fear of not having enough money to live on. What makes you the most afraid? Perhaps it’s fear of losing your home; your marriage; your job; your mind; your health; a loved one. Have you really faced those fears?
Living in fear is exhausting. It saps our energy and leaves us feeling drained at the end of the day or even when we get up in the morning. So what can we do to face our fears? And face them we must if we want to live fulfilling lives. My suggestion is to take your worst fear, and write a plan to get through it. Suppose your fear is of losing your marriage; you have that niggling fear that all is not well and your spouse might leave. So before this happens, write a plan. Imagine you are helping a friend get through that very same situation; what advice would you give? Think about the steps you would tell your friend to take; write them down. Now write the plan for you. Put the written plan in a safe place, in case you need it (you may never need it!!) By making plans now, before the worst happens, you are prepared for anything. And what you fear the most may never happen, but if it does, you are ready. You have faced your fears, and you won. As my Gran used to say: Expect the best; prepare for the worst!
In my neighborhood is a tree that I pass on my daily walks. So what? I hear you saying, there are lots of trees. But this one is different; it is growing out of a tiny crack in the street right where the curb begins. Every couple of months, the road crews cut it back; every couple of months it comes back and grows a couple more feet. I live in the desert, so this tree gets hardly any rain (our average is 12″ annually; and we’ve had about 9″ or less annually for the last 10 years or more); is never fertilized; gets cut down to a nub frequently; and yet keeps trying to grow. Isn’t that so like life? We get ignored, cut off at the knees, no encouragement, yet we keep trying. Eventually, we get where we need to be. In the meantime, remember the tree and keep trying!
Every day is a new beginning; we have a chance to start fresh with a clean slate. No matter what happened yesterday, or last week, or last month, or last year, or even last decade, today is really all we have. It is often difficult to start over daily; we have too much hanging over us from previous days. But it can be done. Focus on the positives, not the negatives. What we tell ourselves will happen is what usually happens; so focus on positive things. Choose a mantra to get you through the day, and make it positive. For example: I am a talented human being; I am a beautiful person; I am a great (wife, mother, nurse, accountant, daycare worker, whatever it is you are.) Pick whatever works for you. And while you’re at it, find 3 things you love about yourself and repeat them to yourself periodically through the day. Write them down on a piece of paper, carry it with you and look at it as often as you need to see it. Finally, when things begin to go wrong, instead of asking ‘Why me (or why now, or whatever hits you)’ try being thankful for whatever it is. For instance, if you get a flat tire, try being thankful that you have a car, even if it is old and falling apart. It isn’t easy, believe me, I know! But you can do it. After all, today is a new day.