Fear, Kids, Self-improvement, Technology

3D image of "Mindy"/TollFreeForwarding
3D image of “Mindy”/TollFreeForwarding

Check out “Mindy,” the grotesque human of the future! She appears to have a few issues, right? You might be wondering where she came from (and why I am sharing her picture). She is the 3D representation of a “future human,” which shows how using technology too much could form some rather unattractive abnormalities.

A company called  TollFreeForwarding collaborated with a 3D designer and researched the ways our bodies can change over time from overusing technology (mainly handheld devices). Mindy is supposed to be from the year 3000 (should we survive that long), but how many people do you know who are developing problems from too much tech right now?

Mindy first problems are her hunched back and “tech neck” from looking down at her device all of the time. The human skull typically weighs about twelve pounds, but once it’s at an angle (as it is when looking down at your phone), that weight can feel more like 30-45 pounds on your spine. Over time, your neck becomes strained and the shoulders hunch up.

Mindy also has a really attractive “text claw,” which comes from holding the phone in her hand while texting with her thumb. Keeping her arm at a 90-degree angle with device in hand strains the hand, wrist, and elbow causing “cubital tunnel syndrome” (inflammation of the ulnar nerve which passes through the elbow).

Researchers also think that her brain would be smaller and her skull would be thicker. The small brain comes from not having to think as much or struggle for survival as our ancestors did (brain size has reduced in the last 3,000 years). The thick skull is a result of her body protecting her from the radiation emitted by devices. People who started using such devices as adults have less exposure to radiation and fully formed skulls, but babies and children are at a higher risk and it is thought they might develop a thicker skull in a protective response. (I recently saw a women in a store with a baby no more than four months old with the phone propped up in the stroller.)

Lastly is Mindy’s horrific-looking third eyelid, which is thought to have developed in response to all of the blue light emitted from screens. Blue light causes the body and brain to be alert and think it’s daytime, which stops the production of melatonin and causes many problems with sleep (especially if you’re staring at your screen late at night or in the middle of

3D image of "Mindy"/TollFreeForwarding
3D image of “Mindy”/TollFreeForwarding

the night because you can’t sleep).

The article also pointed out another problem with Mindy that isn’t visible physically, which is her mental state. Tech usage with too much social media has shown to cause depression and anxiety. Staying inside and staring at devices instead of being outside in sunlight can contribute to more sleep problems and more mood issues.

This picture has haunted me over the past few months so I thought that diving right in and writing about it would be better than thinking about it all of the time. The majority of us in the modern world use the same technology that would cause all of these problems, and none of us will be giving it up. You might be thinking, “but that’s SO far into the future, we’re fine.” I’d like to believe that too, but how many times do you see people bent over their phones while waiting in line, at the doctor’s office, or even in their cars. How many kids (and babies, eek) do you see completely sucked in at the store on devices while their parents push them around in carts?

I can’t help but wonder if this is what Steve Jobs would have wanted, a man who celebrated sleek design and simplicity. Would he befriend Mindy with her altered body, or would they just use avatars and communicate electronically so they never see what the other looks like?

I want to add that I am not much better than anyone else. I try to be cognizant of how I hold my device and give myself breaks, I try not to use my phone constantly, and I don’t use it when I go to bed (except for an alarm, which in itself is a little problematic).

This post isn’t meant to preach or tell everyone what to do with their devices, but what causes me pause is Mindy’s appearance and how we can see people already starting to have her problems (from tech neck to text claw to posture issues, and compare and despair on social media). Who wants that? None of us, I’m sure. So let this post give you pause to think about your tech usage or your kids’ because no one wants to look like Mindy, especially if we are all going to have her haircut in the future!

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Kids, Parenting, Self-awareness, Self-improvement

Recently, I listened to the audiobook, Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki. He is a proclaimed minimalist from Japan. Even though he is a single, childless, guy in his early-thirties, he found himself in the trap of having entirely too much stuff. The apartments and living spaces over there are often much smaller too, so he was overwhelmed by how many things he had and what to do about it. That is when he found the ways of minimalism. He realized that many of his possessions were either sentimental, things he planned to something with “eventually,” the latest-technology and electronics that didn’t properly fit in his tiny space, or collections of things he kept mainly to impress people (like books or art).

aaron stuff
This kid had too much stuff.

He purged, over time, the majority of his possessions so that now, according to him, he could pack up all of his things and move out of his apartment entirely in about thirty minutes. Thirty minutes! As someone who is currently experiencing an evacuation warning (due to the raging Mosquito Fire in N. Cal) and having to determine what I would take or leave if we get a mandatory evacuation order, I think about Sasaki’s simplicity of taking a mere half hour to pack up his things and go.

Obviously, he does not have children, animals, and an entire household to think about, but his advice and questions for choosing what to keep in your life and what to give away or toss are very helpful. I will be purging over the winter (I hope and plan to anyway).

Here are some of Sasaki’s tips and questions to help you too:

  • If you lost it (or in my case, if it burned up), would you buy it again?
  • Start with things that are clearly junk.
  • Minimize anything you have in multiples.
  • Get rid of it if you haven’t used it in a year. Let go of the idea of “some day.”
  • Don’t get creative when you’re trying to discard things (meaning turning that broken lamp into a vase).
  • Let go of the idea of getting “your money’s worth.”
  • Don’t get hung up on the price that you initially paid for something
  • Don’t buy it because it’s cheap, don’t take it because it’s free.
  • Discard it if you have it for the sake of appearance.
  • Take photos of the items that are tough to part with. It’s easier to revisit your memories once you go digital (i.e. your child’s artwork, trophies, medals, your own childhood things you don’t want to carry around anymore).
  • Leave your unused space empty.
  • If you are dealing with a deceased loved one’s things, try to imagine what the person who passed away would have wanted.
  • Discard anything that creates visual noise.
  • When deciding to keep something, if the answer is not a “hell yes!” then it’s a no.
  • Ask yourself why you can’t part with your things.
  • Remember, the things we really need will always find their way back to us.

Good luck, everyone. I don’t think I can pare down to moving in thirty minutes, but thirty hours would be a nice start!

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Gratitude, Self-awareness, Self-improvement

Here is a re-post from four years ago (with some tweaks and updates) that still applies today.

Much has been touted about the benefits of thinking with gratitude. If we can be truly grateful for what we have, we are supposed to feel happier, be less stressed, and experience life with more joy, overall. It’s true. If you stop and think about two things you are grateful for that happened at the end of the day, be it the guy who let you in on a crowded freeway or that you got your kids to school on-time with no complaint from anyone, a little gratitude can go a long way.

But sometimes it’s just too hard to be grateful, or to truly feel it in difficult situations. If you’re behind on bills and have nearly run out of money, thinking about how grateful you are that you’re not starving to death in a third world country, or that you don’t have some terminal disease, doesn’t really help matters. Granted, you might feel truly grateful for those things (I know I do), but it does not change your attitude or situation for the most part.

A shift in perspective when gratitude isn’t working is to think in terms of abundance. This means seeing what you have instead of what you lack: abundance instead of scarcity. Many of us see our lives in terms of scarcity only – what we don’t have, what we want but can’t get, what we think we will never have. Advertisers bombard us  with the latest things that we just have to have, be it a gadget or a lifestyle, and show us how much better they are with those things. Social media can show us (often falsely) of the perfect life we think we “should” have. We can’t help but think we are lacking, and when we try to be grateful for what we do have, we still don’t feel truly glad.

Thinking with abundaabundancence in mind means looking at situation and seeing the possibilities in it instead of the lack. Back to the example of being behind on bills and money, we can see the piles of bills and the small stack of money with which to pay them, or we can see the possibilities we have in creating more wealth and paying those bills (which could be anything from a second job to a yard sale to selling unwanted collectibles on E-bay), and we can be grateful to have the opportunity to do those things. We can see how to make that money stack grow instead of continue to shrink. Will that solve all of your money problems? Not yet, but it is a start, a way towards seeing the world in terms of offering you opportunities instead of stripping you of everything and just being glad you don’t have to worry about eating cat food for dinner or contracting Ebola.

Steven Covey states it well, “The Abundance Mentality… flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.” This can be difficult to do when you had a bad day at work, you find dog crap  on your shoe (again!), or all of your dieting has equaled to weighing more instead of less, but instead of going to extremes and trying to be grateful for things that you can’t really connect with, try to stop and see the abundance in your life. That may mean just accepting that things aren’t perfect right now, but trusting that they will get better, reasoning that you usually have more good days than bad at work (the dog as well), and that you do actually feel better and your pants are looser even if the scale doesn’t say so.

thanksgiving-table-1888643_640One current example in my life is my choice to take a break from alcohol (more on that in a future post). As I have now noticed, alcohol is everywhere and people are drinking it everywhere too. Instead of seeing all of the beverages I cannot (choose not) to drink, I will focus on the abundance of non-alcoholic drinks that are available (even if it means providing my own). So, as the holiday comes and we sit at the table with our families and friends, try not to focus only on the one person who antagonizes you or triggers you. Instead, notice the many people you enjoy being with, the table covered in food, and the one day out of the year when we overeating is encouraged!  Abundance abounds (when we choose to see it).

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Self-awareness, Self-improvement

Have you ever heard of the RAS part of your brain? Me neither, not until recently anyway. It stands for the Reticulating Activating brainSystem and, put simply, it’s said to be the link and filter between your conscious and subconscious mind. It’s located in your brain stem and takes instructions from your conscious and passes them onto your subconscious.

The example often given is if you decide you want to buy a specific kind of car, you’re set on it, then that’s all you see when you go out into the world. Or if you’re thinking about getting pregnant, or trying to, you’ll see mothers-to-be everywhere. Your subconscious is now picking up on that specific thing and trying to find it.

Supposedly, using our RAS, we can guide ourselves towards accomplishing our goals more quickly by changing the way we word what we’re trying to accomplish. It lies with the word, “intend.” If we say we “intend” to do something, our subconscious brain will do its work to make that happen. One example I found is by comparing the use of the words: hope, want, and intend.

If you “hope” to buy a boat, you have some inclination and desire to get one someday. Maybe it will work out, maybe not. Hoping doesn’t guarantee anything.

If you “want” to buy a boat, you’ve made the desire a little stronger. This “want” could become a reality, or not depending on how things work out. As Mick tells us, “You can’t always get what you want…” boat

However, if you “intend” to buy a boat, you have a clear goal of purchasing one. You might start brainstorming ways of getting the money to buy one, look up different models and styles more readily, and drop it into conversations so that people know and might pass on any leads.

The intent to accomplish something becomes the goal and you subconsciously start doing more to achieve it. I’ve heard lots of talk over the years about “setting your intention” whenever you begin something. Set your intention for a good day, a better meeting, a successful outcome. You can then manifest it into happening. I can’t say that I completely believed that to be true, but I can see how the wording matters. I can hope all day for specific things, but that feels like whisps of smoke disappearing into the air. Intending seems different, more concrete and sure.

Will it work? I can’t say, but I can definitely hope so, or oops, intend it to. I’m going it give it a try.

Let me know if it works for you.

 

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Health & Diet, Self-awareness, Self-improvement

I like to believe, or maybe want to believe, that once I “have it all together,” then my life will flow so easily and effortlessly. Like once I can check all the boxes of: exercise daily, write daily, eat well, meal plan for the week, drink less alcohol, drink more water, meditate, stretch or do yoga every day, keep up on this dang blog, save more, budget better, journal, monitor my plankids’ screen time, monitor my own screen time, date night once a week…the list goes on and on. Somewhere in my head I think, yes, that’s it, once I consistently do all those things, my life will be easy and good, even perfect.

But will it? True, many of those things will help, but I always fail to see the reality tucked in between those healthy tasks. Like, injuring myself so I can’t exercise, hearing that my mom is continuing to decline so I skip the meal planning, just plain being lazy so I don’t stretch or journal, that list goes on too. Where is the middle ground? And when will I accept that life isn’t so black-and-white? Doing all those things will benefit me, but they won’t solve anything. Maybe that’s what I’m looking for, the solution to stress, sadness, a stiff and aging body and brain, overwhelm, grief – and wouldn’t I be richer than Jeff Bezos if I could bottle and sell that magic potion? (Ah, to dream)

In the end, I suppose the real solution is to accept that life isn’t meant to flow easily and effortlessly all of the time. Even Jeff Bezos has bad days; and who knows, maybe he is so discontented with his billionaire’s life that he has to leave Earth on his rocket ship to get some perspective.

Where does that leave us though? The “regular people” who don’t have his money (or want it), and also realize that dollars wouldn’t solve our problems either (at least not all of them). For me, it’s probably picking a few of those things listed above and trying to do them on a daily basis. Doing all of them would be nice, but let’s be realistic, it’s not going to happen. If I start with one, like keeping up on this dang blog, I’ve already accomplished something. Yay for me!

And, of course, the funny and ironic part is that many of those healthy things would help anyway (exercise for stress, meditate for overwhelm, etc). It’s just that doing them requires effort and discipline. And that’s where I start all over again – if I only made more of an effort and had better discipline, my life would be…

 

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Health & Diet, Self-improvement

A new year brings people thinking about eating healthy again, since they completely stopped doing it during the holidays. I’m one of those people too. For the past three years some friends and I have done a cleanse at the start of January, which means cutting out dinnereverything you ever loved about eating. It can be torturous and grueling at times, but it does the job. It clears out the junk I’ve been consuming and the habits that started forming as I reached for another dessert, another glass of wine, another handful of chips… Once the cleanse is over, I am mostly in the groove of eating well again.

That was last Sunday and so far, I’m still doing pretty well. I haven’t gone back to my favorites for fear of starting some avalanche of eating those banned foods I had cut out for the last three weeks. But an article I recently read got me thinking. It was entitled “How I Ditched Dieting for Good,” and it was about the fairly new idea of eating intuitively. What does that mean? I wondered the same. Essentially, it’s means eating what your body wants, when it wants it. So, stopping all that “can’t have that, mustn’t have those,” thinking and just eat what you want. What?! This sounds too good to be true, right?

According to this article, and some blog posts, the idea is to trust yourself and your body about what you want to eat, and basically, eat it! Here are some guiding principles:

-Forget diets and diet culture, for many they are a short-term solution to a problem. You can do them and lose weight, but then soon go back to gaining it again.

-Use a Hunger-Fullness scale to judge when you are truly hungry. That means asking yourself if you are really hungry in that moment (or maybe you just need water), as well, as stopping when are comfortably full. Not sort of full and you’ll be hungry twenty minutes from now, or overly full so you’re lying on the couch moaning, actually nicely full.

-Eat what you really want. Ask yourself what you want to eat, and throw away the ideas of “this food is bad and that one is absolutely terrible for me” (which is hard since we’ve been so programmed over the years). Supposedly, if we just let ourselves have what we are craving, we will have a little of it, be satisfied then naturally choose something healthier (true? who knows).

-Eat mindfully. That means paying attention to what you are eating, slowing down, and really enjoying it. That also includes eating what your body craves, not what your emotions do. Scarfing down a carton of ice cream after a bad day is not the idea.

-Be nice to your body, regardless of its size. Part of what keeps us in the cycle of dieting and eating only certain foods is to change our bodies. Eating intuitively means accepting our bodies, regardless of what they look like.

The author of the article initially had a really difficult time throwing away the ideas of dieting or eating only “healthy foods,” but as time cakewent on and she recognized the pre-programmed messages in her head, she let herself just eat what she wanted. She says that when she wanted peanut M&M’s she would have a few, not the whole bag, and be satisfied. She not only lost weight during this year-long experiment, but said the most significant change is that she doesn’t waste “mental energy agonizing over food or body size anymore.” She says she still stresses over potato chips sometimes, but she doesn’t guilt herself or “promise to make up for it.”

Too good to be true? I suppose it depends on your relationship with food. If you know you eat when you are stressed, depressed, angry, etc, then this probably isn’t the best for you because you can justify eating anything (unless you pay close attention and stop yourself, which is possible). I don’t think I’m ready to jump on this bandwagon yet, but it is definitely food for thought, especially on this snack-laden Super Bowl Sunday.

 

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Self-awareness, Self-improvement

Last month, I convinced my husband to go to a couple’s workshop with me. “Couple’s workshop?” you may be thinking, “Why would you ever want to go to one of the those? We don’t need that kind of help.” Well, we’ve been married for fourteen years, and together for nineteen. We are used to each other and our own, personal, quirks. We also still like each other, thankfully, but after kids come, so does the lack of time spent together. When you have babies, forget about it, then, even as they get older, the carefree days of taking off to do something fun, just the two of you, ends. And distance and disconnection can grow instead, things we have both felt.

This idea all began because I heard a podcast with an interview of a psychologist named John Gottman. He and his research partner had been studying couples and divorce for years. They could observe a couple for an hour and predict with over 90% accuracy if that couple would get a divorce in the coming years. I thought that was incredible, and although I didn’t want to sign up and be observed, I looked more into Gottman and his methods. Turns out he has numerous books on the subject, co-authored with his wife, Julie Gottman, and they also have formed seminars and workshops about marriage. Again, I was interested in what they teach and what they have learned over the years by observing and researching couples. After digging around I discovered that there was a couple’s workshop, entitled, “The Art and Science of Love,” created by the Gottmans and it would be in the Bay Area, somewhat near us and fairly soon.

I approached my husband with the idea who looked at me with skepticism. “A couple’s workshop?” He wasn’t too excited about it, and thought that he and our relationship would be under a microscope. I honestly wasn’t too sure about what would happen, but I thought it couldn’t hurt, maybe we would feel better about ourselves as a couple, and if anything, I would have a topic for my monthly blog! I didn’t think our marriage was in any danger to begin with, but we also were pretty stuck in our ways of seeing each other briefly between work, kids’ practices, performances, sports, etc. We both felt a little disconnected. He agreed (because he’s a nice guy and a good husband) and we both waited, with some anxiety, for the weekend workshop.

We walked in on an early Saturday morning of an overcast day to a room full of many different couples: old, young, various ethnicities and backgrounds, a same-sex couple, but everyone had the same sense of interest and apprehension of what was to come. The room was set up with rows of chairs and a projector. It was more of a classroom setting than a group therapy session. I think we were both relieved! Over the next two days we were taught by two marriage/family therapists many things about what the Gottmans have learned over the years. What helps couples stay together (being good friends, and doing small things for each other often were some examples), what predicts divorce (more negative interactions than positive, feeling alone, unable to resolve conflict), and how to resolve those conflicts when they arise (or what to do when you can’t).

Overall, it was an interesting lesson in what makes marriages work, according to their research, and what causes them to slowly disintegrate, then ultimately end in divorce. If we all started out learning these things, the rate of divorce would surely be less! (If anything, because a person might decide not to marry a potential spouse in the first place.) I’ll be posting more of what I learned because I think it can be helpful in any close relationship. As for my husband and me, we still like each other, even after sixteen hours of examining our marriage!

So long ago!
Near the beginning, so long ago.
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Fear, Self-awareness, Self-improvement, Technology

I recently bought the book, How to Break Up with Your Phone, by Catherine Price. I felt like I was spending far too much time looking at and preoccupied with that screen in my pocket when I could be doing many more productive things (like writing for instance, or reading, or even, dare I say it, doing nothing!). The studies that Price present are astounding and frightening, like a New York Times analysis that calculated that Facebook users were spending collectively 39,757 years’ worth of attention on the site, every day; or that as of 2017, Americans were spending an average of more than four hours a day on their phones. We really are becoming a nation of phone zombies. My family is no different. I try to limit my kids’ screen time, but it’s probably far more than what is recommended.

What is really interesting in the book is how much the phone (looking at it, checking it, scrolling endlessly) is simply a habit. She describes Charles Duhigg’s definition of a habit (from his book, the Power of Habit, it’s a good one), which is “a choice that we addiction-phones2deliberately make at some point, and then stop thinking about, but continue doing, often every day.” And how habits are loops made up of three parts: the cue (or trigger), the response, and the reward. In the case of the phone, it could be me bored while waiting in line somewhere (cue or trigger) so I check my phone (response), and find that I have email I could read (reward). And so it goes. First in situations of boredom, then in times of avoidance (say, when I don’t want to hear my kids complaining), and finally, just because. How many times have you looked at your phone simply because someone else did? Or checked your email or texts, thinking you heard that little ding, but it was just your imagination. (If you can believe it, the term for that is phantom ringing syndrome.)

I haven’t finished the book yet because it is broken up into two parts that take a while. The first is just information about how hooked we have all become, the second part is a 30-day plan to break up with your phone (I’m about halfway through) with tasks to do each day. She recommends small daily changes like turning off notifications so you’re not constantly checking every email when you hear the ding, or installing an app that tracks your usage so you truly know how much time you look at your phone, or even just pick it up.

It all accumulates into taking a complete vacation from your phone for twenty-four hours, meaning turning it off completely and putting it away for a full day and night. For some people, that’s seems impossible and anxiety-producing. For me, I’m not so sure. At first, I think,phone addiction “No problem,” but then I seem to think of reasons why I might need it on (my mom for instance, or some excuse I think is “important”). In the end, it’s just silly anxiety running the show and making me think that the world will end in those twenty-four hours simply because I (the all-important legend in my own mind) don’t have my phone on (in reality, I guess, it is the phone running my show). I will post a follow-up when I complete my thirty days of phone withdrawal and let you know how it went!

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Health & Diet, Self-improvement

This January I embarked on the Arbonne 30-Days to Healthy Living Cleanse. I did this last year too and wrote about it (the Power and Pain of the 30-Day Cleanse). However, this year I was not alone. Somehow, I managed to talk others into doing it too (besides my husband who probably felt that he had little choice). Four other couples and two additional women did it with us, and oh, what fun it was!

green smoothieFor those who don’t know about this cleanse, the following foods are cut out for thirty days: wheat, sugar, dairy, peanuts, corn, soy, caffeine (except for green tea), canola oil (which is in many foods and is inflammatory), all vinegar except apple cider, pork, beef (except grass-fed, once a week), starchy foods (like potatoes), and sugary fruits (bananas, pineapple, etc). Why, you might ask, would anyone voluntarily cut out ALL of these foods? And, what does that leave a person to eat?!  I did this cleanse again because last year it helped with my migraines, my husband did it to lose weight (and he’s a nice, supportive guy in that way), it’s also a good way to get rid of the guilt-ridden pounds and general yuckiness felt after overindulging during the holiday season (which we both did). Those who joined us did it for a variety of reasons: for some it was to lose weight, others wanted to get rid of the guilt too, some wanted to get a good start on the year by eating right, and one other person had mysterious pain issues and wanted to see if a diet change would help alleviate some of the pain.

The cleanse did help with all of these issues. Everyone lost weight. My migraines improved. All of us felt “good” in general (either from not eating so crappy anymore or for paying penance from the month before, we don’t know), and the person who had the pain issue said her body felt better (though it didn’t all go away). If that’s the case, why don’t we eat like this ALL of the time, then? And here is where the list of drawbacks begins.

Convenience: it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to eat out or grab something quick during this cleanse. No restaurant or quick eatery has entirely cleanse-compliant menu options (Chipotle is the one exception, and even then, there is one or two items on the menu to have). Meal-planning is essential, which was good in some ways because it forced me to plan, but for those of us who aren’t very creative or enjoy figuring out meals, it was hard. Which leads me to the next one:

Lack of variety: there are only so many ways to cook a chicken, especially when most marinades, vinegars, or any type of sauce is forbidden. I don’t eat meat, so it didn’t bother me, but others who did the cleanse groaned, “Chicken…again?” Grass-fed beef is an option, a very expensive one. Most chicken sausages have a pork casing. And for me, the vegetarian, beans – yet again – got pretty old. After it was over, though, we definitely appreciated some simple foods that we couldn’t have – regular old potatoes, for instance, or tofu in my case.hungry with donut

Missing out: many of us had certain foods or beverages that we realized were hard to let go of. For most it was the beloved coffee, but after the three to five days of withdrawal, many were okay (some weren’t). My nightly cookie with tea was dearly missed, or a Friday night beer (a glass of wine for others). How much of this was habit or actually hard to give up? We’re not sure.

The length of the cleanse got to me in the end. I was flying through it for the first two and a half weeks, finding that it wasn’t so hard because I had given up a lot of these foods anyway (mostly wheat, dairy, and coffee), but after fifteen days, I hit the wall – hard. I was tired of eating the same old things. I wanted chocolate. I wanted my old salad dressing back. I wanted to stop thinking about what to eat for the next week. I asked my husband why we ever decided to do this stupid cleanse (and he said, “I don’t know, why did you decide that we would do this stupid cleanse?”).

But we got through it, just like we did the first time. And, like before, we felt better – all of us did. Now, nearly a month has passed, and some of us are slowly going back to our old foods, others have dived in headfirst (with G.I. payback), and some have given up a few foods entirely. Last night, I asked most of the fellow cleansers if they would do it again, and many said yes. Despite the pain, the inconvenience, and the difficulty of following such a restrictive diet, we would do it again. (Well, I might change it to twenty days instead!). I think that shows how many of us knew we were making the right choices, filling our bodies with real food, and not feeling guilty for eating things that we knew satiated just our brains, not our stomachs. There must be something to that. I’ll let you know next year. Or would you care to join us? 😉

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Health & Diet, Self-improvement

So many moms out there experience these debilitating headaches, and so many of us find little relief. For those of you who have never had a migraine, here is a brief description: extreme, throbbing pain, usually on one side the head, that is relentless. It pounds away minute by minute and is accompanied by heightened sensitivity to light, sound, and even smell. Almost anything will make it worse. Some experience nausea or vomit, some have a weird halo (or “aura”) that obscures their vision, others must hide away in a dark room, and the worst must go to the E.R. because the pain is so great. Most get no relief until they go to bed that night and hope it’s gone in the morning. For many sufferers, it has miraculously disappeared after a good nimigraine1ght’s sleep; for others, it can continue for two to three more days. The pain can be so excruciating that most people are willing try anything to make it go away, and most things don’t work. Adding children to the mix (especially young and needy ones) when a migraine hits tests the strength of the strongest moms!

I have suffered from migraines since the age of 26 (I am now 42). I have researched the topic, tried almost any and every suggested remedy, gone to doctors, acupuncturists, and herbalists. Here is what I learned over the years to hopefully help anyone with these mega-headache blues:

Causes and Triggers:
Following are some common causes and triggers that contribute to a migraine occurring. Note that it isn’t just one of these that will cause the headache, it is typically a combination of them. I spent many years trying to find that one culprit, thinking that I could eliminate that and be cured; and it took me a long time to realize that it’s not the case. Too many triggers experienced at the same time will cause that dreaded pounding to start; there isn’t one source.
– Migraines are typically hereditary. If you get migraines and start asking around your family members, you’ll probably find that someone else gets them too. My dad does occasionally, as well as my aunt who experiences them often, and now my younger cousins. Unfortunately, we’re a migraine family, but they also have been a good resource for me when trying to discover my common triggers. Often, they are the same.
– Getting too little sleep. This is a big contributor to the onset of a migraine, and I know that if I have multiple nights of no sleep, a migraine is sure to follow. Sleep can be nearly impossible with little ones, but try to make it up where you can. Go to bed when your babies do, nap when they do too, or try to find some time during lunch breaks to just close your eyes and rest that poor brain.
– Having too much caffeine. Caffeine, our lifesaver in the morning or when we don’t get that beloved sleep, can also bring on a migraine faster. It constricts your blood vessels and increases your heart rate. It feels good in the moment, but can also make that incessant pounding worse. I finally kicked the coffee habit after many loving years with my darling java, but it has really helped. I still drink tea, a combination of black and green, so I still intake caffeine, but not at the same rate or in the same concentration.
– Not eating regularly, or drinking enough water. In combination with healthy sleep, migraine sufferers also benefit from eating at least every three hours, as well as drinking plenty of fluids (ideally water). The drop in blood sugar really affects those with migraines. Lacking these two essentials just adds fuel to the migraine fire.
– Menstrual cycle migraines. Some women find that the dips and dives in their hormones due to their period cause migraines to regularly occur. At least two moms I know have found that their menstrual cycle is the major contributor to their monthly migraine.
– An onslaught of stress. We all know that stress is unavoidable in our lives as moms, but an influx due to family problems, illnesses, financial worries, and more can add up fast. Taking a break with some relaxation or even a short meditation can help. It might not solve your problems, but can give you a little distance for a short while, and maybe keep that headache at bay.
– Red wine, some cheeses, dark chocolate. That just doesn’t seem fair, does it? All of those delicious foods can cause migraines? For some, yes. Red wine has been a culprit for a long time. Tannins and a substance called tyramine is supposed to contribute to those who are prone to migraines. The same goes for aged cheeses, they contain tyramine, which helps that headache along. Dark chocolate also contains it, and chocolate has caffeine from the higher content of cocoa. My aunt discovered that dark chocolate is her biggest trigger (along with caffeine,) so she avoids it completely.
– Food allergies or intolerance. Foods that your body cannot tolerate or has a reaction to will cause inflammation in your body. Inflammation can help that migraine come into being. After doing a food intolerance test, I discovered that I am intolerant to milk, lactose, cheese, and many types of seeds. I have completely cut those out of my diet and seen positive results.
– Weather changes. This trigger might seem a little silly, but it can be a contributor. Drops in the barometer mean changes in pressure, which can be painful to an already sensitive head. Major changes due to the changing of seasons affect my headaches, as well as visiting other places where the humidity is vastly different (like the southern states). There isn’t much that we can do about the weather! But being aware of it might cause you to not have that extra cup of coffee or stay up a little later.

How to help your head:
– Healthy lifestyle changes: do your best to get enough sleep, don’t overdo it on caffeine (or drink it at all if possible), always be aware of when you ate and when to eat again (do not go over three hours, carry snacks in your purse, always have water with you).
– Track your menstrual cycle along with your headaches. If you notice a pattern, avoid your other triggers when you know might start your period (or whenever headaches occur in your cycle). You also can visit your doctor to discuss trying birth control pills, which has helped those moms I know who get cycle-related migraines.
– Keep a headache log and note any patterns: did you have red wine the night before, what did you eat, did you get little notebook-and-pensleep, are you particularly stressed, is your period coming or did it recently end? The goal is to narrow down any little pattern. That will help you untangle the triggers that bring migraines on.
– Get a food intolerance test. Knowing what foods your body reacts to can help your entire system (from your G.I. to your head). I had no clue that my body doesn’t tolerate milk products, and I’ve been eating them my entire life! You may not like the answers, but if you’re desperate for relief, you might be willing to try.
– See your doctor to get a prescription for migraine medication. There are options out there for us migraine sufferers and I have tried many of them. There are meds to take when a migraine starts to attack and there are some to take on a daily basis to ward them off. Choosing to take medication is personal and entirely up to you, but know that options exist, some of them might be helpful.
– See an acupuncturist who can get you back in balance. Acupuncture is beneficial for chronic pain or any other problem, which is often due to an imbalance somewhere in your body. The right acupuncturist can treat this imbalance, and in turn, alleviate some of your headaches, or make the pain less severe when they occur.

What worked for me:
First, please note that everyone is different and what has worked for me may not work you in the same way. Everyone’s migraine journey is unique; still, some of my solutions might help you too.
– Adequate sleep, eating healthily, and drinking lots of water. If I miss out on any of these, especially in combination, I’m in trouble.
– Exercising on a regular basis – it helps my body and brain, even short walks are something.
– Changing my daily diet. After getting the food intolerance test and cutting out my body’s major reactors, in my case, milk, lactose, many seeds, and some alcohol, I noticed a marked difference in my headaches. As a family we also cut out gluten (due to my daughter’s intolerance), and that has helped too.
– Acupuncture – it took me awhile to find the right practitioner (every acupuncturist has their own theory for your ailment, like a doctor), but once I did, she worked wonders in clearing out and detoxing my body and helping my energy level overall, especially my headaches. I went from having migraines a few times a month to having one sporadically every four or five months. She worked wonders for me, but again, everyone’s experience is different.
– Prescription migraine medication – I have tried a variety of these as well, some with varying success. In the end, I take a common medication (Imitrex) when I feel a migraine coming on. Since I have eliminated most triggers, that medication usually stops the migraine before ballooning into a full-blown attack. Prior to my lifestyle changes and acupuncture, the medication didn’t always work and I would take it much more frequently than I liked. Now, I am not waiting anxiously to fill my prescription.

The migraine problem is a hard one to solve, and it might be that you will always be prone to them, but know that you can cut out some of the major contributing factors and, if anything, reduce the times that you get them (and the severity). Good luck, migraine mamas!

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