Resiliancy

Resiliancy

“Resilience isn’t a single skill. It’ a variety of skills and coping mechanisms.

To bounce back from bumps in the road as well as failures, you should focus on emphasizing the positive.”

~ Jean Chatzky, financial journalist

Inner resiliency is an important personality trait to have in order to combat both acute and chronic stress.

I find that many of my clients and friends don’t really know what it is.

A dictionary definition goes something like this:

1. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
2. The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

On first glance, it may seem that only the first definition applies to human beings.

I truly believe that both inner toughness and elasticity are necessary for human resilience.

We need to be both tough and flexible (elastic) to withstand acute stress.

For example, when facing the loss of a job, a scary medical diagnosis or being subjected to harassment.

We need to open our hearts and minds to changing jobs; this requires flexibility.

Thus, when facing a significant life change, we need to be tough in the face of the change, but also embrace the change with openness to something new
(flexibility).

A new normal

Cancer patients are counseled that they CAN live with cancer; but, they will need to adjust to a “new normal.”

They will need to be tough to stand up to the cancer and to withstand chemotherapy and radiation AND they will need to be flexible in adjusting to their “new normal.”

Cancer patients need to be flexible in order to adjust to their “new normal” of living with cancer.

We also need to be both tough and flexible in order to withstand the stressful ebbs and flows of life that cause chronic stress.

Proud Mommy Moment

I was listening to my daughter talk last night about how mean and sassy the kids in her middle school are. I was amazed by her nonchalance about it.

She just said that they bug her, but that she basically doesn’t have time for their nonsense! She is exemplifying the epitome of toughness in a chronically stressful situation!

You have to be tough in the face of chronic stress

Being flexible is just as important in managing chronic stress.

One of my biggest challenges with my clients is to convince them that they do have time for self-care.

They get so bogged down in the chronic stress of their busy lives they cannot grasp the reality that they actually can carve out time to relax and take time for themselves.

It takes flexibility in thinking and actions to take the time to do this for themselves.

What a great way to build the toughness and flexibility required for RESILIENCY!

Self-Care!

The question becomes, how do we get the toughness and flexibility to build resilience?

Here are 5 tips for building resilience:

1. “This Too Shall Pass”

When I was in graduate school I found myself in a professor’s office one day near tears (I cried a lot from the stress of grad school :/ ) .

I was very upset that I did not pass one of the questions on a Ph.D. comprehensive exam.

In hindsight it was quite silly of me to be so upset, because I passed the exam.

We had to pass two out of three questions and I passed both of the others, so there really wasn’t a reason to be upset. At that point in life I had very little resiliency to me!

The professor, wise and benevolent man that he was, sat back, crossed his arms, looked at me and said, “Jen, this too shall pass.”

To me, at that moment in time, I felt like a huge failure! I did not feel like it would pass!

Of course, hindsight is 20/20…

If I had resiliency at that time I would have been tough enough to say to myself that it was okay that I didn’t pass the question.

I would have been flexible enough to move beyond it and not dwell on the false idea that I was a failure.

I would have had enough presence of mind to not get overwrought by not passing one question, when I passed the exam!

2. “What Other People Think of Me is None of My Business.”

This point harkens back to my “Mean People Suck” vlog/ blog.

People can be both super stress relievers and super stress inducers.

When people become stressful having resilience is very important.

If we go back to the example of how my daughter is not allowing the mean, sassy kids at school get her upset, we can see how her resiliency is protecting her from taking it personally when they say mean things to her.

One thing that we all need to learn, is that while we do need to care about what other people think of us in terms of if we are being kind and polite in our interactions with others, we do not need take it personally when others are not being kind or polite to us!

When people are being mean or rude, that is when a resilient person will say to herself, “what that person thinks of me is none of my business,” and move on with her day.

3. “Practice Positivity, But Learn from the Negative.”

I have had enough experiences by this point in life to know that life can be full of joy if I let it.

On the flip side of that, I also know that life has lots of sorrow and challenges.

I can honestly say that embracing joy and working through sorrow has been the most effective method I have found for strengthening my resilience.

Thanks to the efforts of positive psychology researchers like Barbara Frederickson of the University of North Carolina, we now have empirical evidence that a mind focused on positivity is far more open and flexible than a mind focused on negativity:

“Positive people are able to maintain a broader perspective and see the big picture which helps them identify solutions whereas negative people maintain a narrower perspective and tend to focus on problems.”

~ Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D.

Remember, flexibility is associated with resiliency!

If you focus on positive thoughts it will give you a mind that is far more flexible than if you focus on negativity.

Thus, over the long-run focusing on negativity does not build resilience.

This phenomenon is not just true in respect to how we as humans view the outer world, but it is also true in terms of how we view ourselves.

Positive affirmations and self-talk build our inner resiliency.

From the century old theories of French Psychologist Émile Coué, to current research out of esteemed universities, we are seeing that positive thinking has efficacious effects for people.

There are some cautionary tales though.

For example, psychology research has also shown that trying to tell someone not to think their negative thoughts can have the opposite effect.

It can cause them to focus on them more.

In other words, while positive affirmations are helpful in building resiliency, it is also important to accept negative emotions and see them as real.

Do not push them down inside of you or blow them off as not important. But, also don’t dwell on them.

Give them their due diligence and move forward.

Once you have accepted the negative you can move on into positivity and allow positive affirmations to work.

This is the key to building resilience. Working through the negative in order to embrace the positive.

4. Self- Nurture

One of the primary themes running through my coaching, my writing, my speaking and my life is that self-nurture is of utmost importance to reducing stress.

By taking time out to rest and care for yourself you are giving your mind, body and spirit the opportunity to heal from stress, revive and strengthen.

By taking time out to nurture yourself you are giving yourself the opportunity to strengthen.

Remember how on airplanes the flight attendants instruct us to put the oxygen masks on ourselves before we put them on our children?

I love to use real life instruction as a metaphor for the importance of self-nurture in our lives.

We need to give ourselves oxygen, so we don’t pass out, before we can take care of others.

By resting and rejuvenating we are strengthening ourselves and building our resilience.

5. And finally… Just Breathe

People often look at me like I’m being a little ridiculous when I talk about how much breathing can help with stress-management.

I mean, we all breath all day, right?

Without breath we can’t live.

I’m talking about a different type of breathing than that which do all day every day.

I’m talking about slow, deep, luxurious breathing.

I’m talking about the type of breathing that allows your entire torso to expand and contract with the breath.

I’m talking about the type of breath that coaxes your shoulders to melt with relaxation.

I’m talking about the type of breath that allows your mind to slow down and your body let go of tension.

I’m talking about the type of breathing that brings you into a place of tranquility and peace…

So, just breath my friends. Just breath…

What are your stories of resiliency? I would love to hear about the wisdom you have derived, please comment and share!

Love & Light,

Jen

Stressing over being fat is unhealthier than being fat

Stressing over being fat is unhealthier than being fat

The stress of fat shaming is more toxic than actually being fat.

The only way to make weight stop being a problem, is to stop making weight a problem–stop judging ourselves and others by our size. Linda Bacon, PhD in Nutrition Science

According to the American Psychological Association stress is linked to SIX of the leading causes of death in the United States: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, liver cirrhosis, and SUICIDE. [source] But, did you know that it’s also one of the leading causes of diabetes? [source]

What does this have to do with fat shaming, you ask?   

Fat shaming is one of the leading causes of stress in American society. Not only is it a cause of stress for people who are overweight, but it’s also a major source of stress for people of normal weight!   People in our nation are so worried about being fat shamed that they are worrying themselves sick about it. Why is fat shaming so pervasive in our society?  First and foremost, because it’s tolerated.

  • We see magazine covers touting celebrities, “ASTONISHING WEIGHT GAIN!”  As if it’s the worst thing that could ever happen to them.
  • We have extremely popular TV shows – The Biggest Loser – that chronical the extreme exercise and dieting of contestants to lose big weight, only to gain it back again after the show. [source

Biggest loser contestants must brutally exercise to keep the weight off, study shows. The Los Angeles Times

  • We see supposedly legitimate news sources discussing whatever the latest fad diet is. Watch Good Morning America or The Today Show almost any week and they will be talking about ways to lose weight
  • We have an American Diet Industrial Complex worth over $60 BILLION annually! They are heavily invested in telling us that being fat is bad, to keep us spending that $60 billion so that we can be healthy, look good and, according to them, feel good! [source– “The Heavy Price of Losing Weight”]
  • We have a medical community that largely ignores many of the underlying causes of weight gain–stress being one of the most prominent–and cashes in on diabetes & weight loss pharmaceuticals, bariatric surgeries, and research that is funded by the pharmaceutical and diet industrial complex.

The Obesity Paradox

Obese patients with disease live longer than those of normal weight. Slate.com

  • And, of course more recently, we have a president who fat shames indiscriminately.  

If I were running the view, I’d fire Rosie [O’Donnell]. I’d look her right in that fat, ugly, face of hers and say, ‘Rosie, you’re fired.'” Donald Trump to Entertainment Tonight

So there’s the catch…

Common knowledge says that if we just eat less and exercise more we will lose weight!   And this is true, to a certain extent for VERY FEW PEOPLE! Most people either can’t lose the weight without starving themselves and/or over-exercising.  97% of those who do lose weight, gain it back and then some!

 

My Insulin Story

 

I was a skinny kid. And I was actually a skinny teenager and a skinny college girl. What’s so funny though, is that I thought I was fat! When I was in college I went on Jenny Craig even though I was a women’s size 0! I thought I was fat because I couldn’t fit into the juniors/ misses sizes around my hips very well anymore (it was really just that my body was maturing around the hips as women’s bodies do…)    I didn’t know that because I paid attention to what popular culture was telling me about my body.  Anybody remember Tamilee Webb and Buns of Steel?

 

Except, here’s what was going on behind the scenes in my body:

 

I wasn’t processing the stress of my upbringing or the stress of my current situation well. I was drinking too much alcohol, sleeping too little, and worrying all the time.

 

 

The stress was starting to have an effect on my brain chemistry.

 

I was cycling through episodes of severe anxiety and depression. Much of the time I felt fine, but as time went on the anxiety and depression came around more often and the “feeling fine” time was harder to achieve.  

 

 

Little did I know, the stress was starting to affect my pancreas and my insulin levels were starting to ratchet up.

 

When I graduated from college and decided to go to graduate school, the pace and workload (on top the fact that I still was not coping with my stress appropriately) led to bouts of months-long insomnia, occasional panic attacks and the dreaded weight gain! During my master’s program I gained 20 pounds – in only a year-and-a-half! During the first year of my doctoral program I gained another whopping 20 pounds!!!

 

 

Then, I had the opportunity to go to Europe for two months.

 

 I climbed to the top of every cathedral I could find. I walked and walked and walked… and I ate the amazing fresh food that Europeans are lucky enough to eat every day! I lost 20 pounds!

 

 

It was great! Or so I thought…

 

The problem was that it was the beginning of a cycle of stress-induced weight gain and physical activity + a more relaxed lifestyle weight loss. I wasn’t yoyo dieting – I was yoyo stressing!

 

Fast Forward to 2016

 

I just turned 46 and was feeling horrible! I was at my highest weight yet, but I also was in a constant brain fog. I couldn’t remember words, I would show-up for appointments at the wrong time, I was lethargic and constantly battling depression.

 

 

“But, I’M A STRESS MANAGEMENT COACH!!!”

 

I would say to myself with exasperation! What’s going on… why are my awesome mindfulness techniques not working to help me feel better???

 

 

I sought out medical reasons for why I felt so bad.

 

Low-and- behold, after a year of seeing different doctors and having A LOT of blood drawn, it turned out that my pancreas was producing so much insulin that if it kept going at that pace it would likely shut down very soon. When the endocrinology nurse practitioner told me this news the first thing out of my mouth was,

 

but, I’ve tried so hard to lose weight! I only eat an average of 1600 calories a day, I power walk 3 to 4 days-a-week and I do yoga 3 times a week!

 

Her response was to look at me seriously and state, “

 

This is not your fault. You are not insulin resistant because of your weight; you are having trouble losing weight because you are insulin resistant.

 

It turns out that, according to Allison the NP, the only connections that research has found between causes and insulin resistance are heredity and STRESS.

 

Here are some facts:

 

  1. People with overproduction of insulin may be genetically prone to the condition. There is a hereditary effect, but it’s not necessarily the case for everyone. There is a high correlation.
  2. People with insulin overproduction do not usually have what is normally considered to be high blood sugar. For example, my A1C (fasting blood sugar average) ranges between 5.5 and 5.8 – that is well within normal range. In other words, they are not on the typical path toward Type 2 Diabetes which can be detected through rising blood sugar levels.
  3. People with insulin overproduction may be overweight in spite of diet and exercise efforts that would produce weight loss in other people. This is true of children as well, many of whom have been put on calorie restrictive diets by pediatricians who don’t bother to check their insulin.
  4. People who have insulin overproduction are often overweight because of their insulin – NOT the other way around!
  5. A history of high stress is strongly correlated with insulin overproduction.

 

My endocrine NP’s exact words were:

 

This is not your fault.  This is not about our weight. Your insulin is so high that it seems like it has been climbing for decades. You may be able to control this to a certain extent through diet–A Low Glycemic Diet. But, most likely you will not be able to fully control it through diet.

 

Here’s the long-and-the-short of it…  

 

  • My lack of knowledge about how to control my stress early on most likely led to this condition.
  • Was some of my stress due to my socially constructed ideas about my weight and body proportion? Absolutely!
  • Have I been fat shamed? Absolutely!
  • Do I let it stress me out now? Absolutely NOT!

 

What’s the Take-Home here?

 

First, don’t fat shame, or even judge the bodies of, others. You have no idea what is going on with their weight.   Insulin resistance is only one of many underlying medical conditions that affect weight. The stress you cause by judging others size is more harmful than their size actually is. AND don’t fat shame yourself! Accept yourself for who you are and what your body looks like! Definitely get yourself to the doctor if you have unexplained weight gain. Be kind, loving, and accepting of yourself. There is a lot of medical and epidemiological research on your side if you are overweight. That is, there is a lot of medical and epidemiological research that says that if you are “overweight” you are perfectly healthy and thus not “over” anything!

 

 

Aaannndddd… Let the comments begin!

 

Namaste Y’all!, Jen

Resilience and the healing power of music.

Resilience and the healing power of music.

It’s been a tough couple of months. My peaceful living has really been put to the test. I’ve had to make sure that I take extra-special care of myself in order to stay strong under the pressure of stressful times!

In recent Vlogs & Blogs I talked about how to stay strong in the face of bullying and how to bounce back after a particularly hectic time.

Both of those topics underlay this week’s topic of resiliency.

For today, I want to just give a little lead-up to Wednesday’s “Wellness Wednesday” Facebook Live VLOG by talking about MUSIC!

So when my going gets tough & I need to build my resiliency, I turn on some empowerment music and dance and sing!

Here are my Top 20 “Girl Power” songs! (in no particular order, I love them all!)

My Most Recent Favs:

1. Taylor Swift – Shake it Off!
2. Kelly Clarkson – Stronger
3. Kelly Clarkson – Whole Lotta Woman
4. Meghan Trainor – All About That Bass
5. Meghan Trainor – Better When I’m Dancing
6. Alicia Keys – Girl On Fire

The Classics:

7. Helen Reddy – I am Woman
8. Gloria Gaynor – I will Survive

The Country Girls:

9. Dixie Chicks – Wide Open Spaces
10. Dixie Chicks – Not Ready To Make Nice
11. Kaycee Musgraves – Follow Your Arrow
12. Shania Twain – Man! I Feel Like A Woman!

All Time Favs:

13. Christina Aguilera – Beautiful
14. Katy Perry – Firework
15. P!nk – So What!
16. P!nk – F***ing Perfect
17. Demi Lovato – Confident
18. Beyonce – Run The World (Girls)
19. David Guetta & Sia – Titanium
20. Sheryl Crow – Winding Road

What are your FAV pick-me- up & make me STRONG songs? Let’s keep adding to the play list!

Hugs,
Jen

Get Off The Treadmill

Get Off The Treadmill

Most of the time, my blogs talk about the things I’ve learned to “right” in life in order to live a more peaceful life.  But, today I’m going to start a series on my “oopses.”  The first in this series is titled GET OFF THE TREADMILL because I recently stayed on the treadmill of being busy, busy for a little too long. And now I’m suffering the consequences! (more…)

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