Stepping away from the news
I've learned the hard way what listening to the news can do to my body and my health. During the first Gulf War, for the first time ever, CNN had 24 hour coverage. I didn't have the good sense to limit how much I watched that channel. There was a recession, I was fresh out of fashion design school and unable to get a job, which led to be being a bit depressed about feeling unneeded in my chosen profession. Our country being at war had me on edge and I felt I needed to keep informed, so I constantly had the news on. I got more and more wound up by what I saw on tv, which sent my anxiety levels even higher. My sleep became more broken and I got sick more often.
It was a downward spiral until I realized that watching the news was the problem. Watching the news is for healthy people. I quit almost cold turkey. I rarely miss hearing anything important because everyone's talking about it anyway. One minute of interaction on a news topic with a friend or loved one every few days is so much easier than all the stress I used to get from listening to the daily news. If you're dealing with chronic stress or illness, you might ask yourself how you feel after watching the news. Take stock of your body, heart rate, blood pressure and pain levels before and after watching it. You might want to cut back watching, if not cut it out entirely. There's a lot of brinksmanship going on right now between us and North Korea, but my focus is on what I have power over like staying positive and continuing to write and edit.
Being positive and calm helps others around us to be calmer. The more we can stay in that space mentally, the better for us and our health. I fill in some of the time I used to waste on the news with yoga and meditation classes. You might be surprised at how productive and creative you can be if you're not so stressed.
Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash
This is a little post about gratitude. This morning I got up incredibly early for me and had a Skype session with an Australian friend. The sun came up while I was on the computer. Once the session was over, I came out to the kitchen and caught the sun doing this amazing thing. You know, like shining on a wall. The sunlight slants in like this for just a few minutes in the morning at certain times of the year. Most of the time, I'm either still sleeping or too busy to stop and enjoy it.
I've tried a few things as part of a gratitude practice. One of my favorites was writing something down on a post it note when I caught myself in the act of being grateful and putting that note into a box. The idea is to empty it at the end of the year and read them all. It's great, because you get to re-experience the gratitude all over again.
I think maybe the next step is to sometimes catch a picture when I'm grateful about something. Particularly for the ephemeral things, like light. Light has often been something I hungered for. In New York City in the 1990's, my apartment faced north. The building across the street blocked most of the window. I felt stunted, like my plants. Once I was finally in a house in the suburbs north of the city, sweet rays of sunlight filtered into my kitchen on a slant on cold January mornings, just when hope for summer was at its dimmest. I sat in them, let them wash over me, let them light up my eyelashes.
Gratitude gives me a feeling of resonance in my body, like somehow I'm connected to everything and everyone else. In physics, resonance means the reinforcement or prolongation of sound by reflection from a surface or by the synchronous vibration of a neighboring object. Maybe when we are grateful we give off a synchronous vibration that others can pick up on unconsciously? However it works, gratitude has been shown to help our happiness and health. Have you added a gratitude practice in your life? How has it helped you?
A friend asked me for help with her foot pain. She's developed a painful callus on her foot and might have to have surgery to remove a corn that's developed. It reminded me of the pain I used to have in my feet, ankles, knees and hips, so I gave her the following suggestions on how I reversed it.
I developed a lot of pain walking while in my forties. I'd been relatively athletic in high school, but let it slide as I got a desk job that demanded a lot of sitting--sometimes upwards of 70 hours a week. Over time, I realized I needed to make a commitment to health and I started walking with friends. Problem was, a ninety minute walk led to agony in my hips. My knees weren't much better. Even my feet and ankles hurt. I had bunions forming and I was way too young for that. I needed to do something different.
I started to pay attention to my body when I was walking. I noticed that when I was tired, I let my feet start to turn out. I also noticed that when I was tired, my knees turned in more. I realized that when I was tired, these changes would lead the head of my femur to put pressure on the hip socket in an unhealthy way, so I started doing some research.
I liked what I found at Egoscue. I got a video from them called Posture Solutions. I got helpful hints from the video on how to reduce my pain. I made little changes. It took a while to start catching myself when I made posture mistakes, but I started getting better at it the more attention I paid to my body.
I began to keep my feet straight forward when I walked, even when I got tired. I made sure that my stride was centered between the 2nd and 3rd toes. I used to walk with my weight mostly on my big toe, so that was a big change. I made sure my knees didn't drift in when I was tired, either. I cut my walks short if I got too tired to have correct form.
The last big thing was that I started changing how my feet interacted with the ground. Before, I let them land however they wanted. I'd been putting too much weight on my big toe, which made my feet roll inward and my arch flatten. I knew I needed to have a more neutral foot. It's not easy, because the muscles are strong where they're called on and weak where they're not. I'd try lifting my arches a bit until they'd tire, then let them go back to the old way. When I thought about it again, I'd lift my arch again. Bit by bit, my muscles got stronger in the correct positioning.
My friend was excited by these ideas because she'd had surgery some time before. The pain from the surgery had made her shift her weight to the outside of her foot and she'd kept up that habit even once the pain went away. She's going to try to make these changes and see if they help.
Just one note of caution: if you've been walking with poor form for a long time, everything could start hurting more for a while after you change. In my experience, this was because things start waking up. I'd had a lot of hidden inflammation, so it took a while to clear. More blood circulation was getting into the areas than before. Nerves that hadn't been heard from in decades were outraged as they woke up and gave me a piece of their mind.
I'm glad I stayed with it. The pains went away over time. So did the bunions. I'm much healthier and capable of taking long walks without foot, knee or hip pain. I even started jogging again. So if you have joint pain, don't think you have to live with it. If you have corns or bunions, try changing how you walk and the shoes you wear. Over time, little changes add up to big relief.
Photo by Alan Labisch on Unsplash