Monthly Archives: January 2013

QUICK MEDITATION

Surprise, surprise, I was listening to a podcast the other day.  I wonder if there are statistics associated with podcast listeners. You know how they say that there is a higher rate of obesity when you watch more than 2 hours of TV. What do they say about people that listen to hours of podcasts every day? Got off track there for minute, so, I was listening to a podcast with Tim Ferris. If you are not familiar with his work he has written 3 books that I’m familiar with and have read, The 4 Hour Work Week, The 4 Hour Diet, and his latest The 4 Hour Chef. He is a bio hacker has many N=1 experiments on himself, his books are full of information, some useful some not, but interesting none the less.  He likes simple but seems scattered and on the podcast he was discussing meditation. My first thought was how does this guy sit and meditate?  It seems that he always has something going on in that brain and can it ever quiet?  He actually mentioned that he wasn’t meditating to stop his thoughts but more to focus them and have a more peaceful day.  He does meditation for 1 song track which is about 4 – 5 minutes, and sits comfortably on a pillow with his back against the wall so he isn’t straining his body in anyway and feeling uncomfortable while performing this ritual. While he is sitting for the first half of the song he thinks about everything he is thankful for and the 2nd half of the song he keeps reminding himself that he has time for everything that is important.

I actually really liked this approach to meditation and remembering the important things is what makes the tough times manageable.  I tried it this morning in my Bikram class.  I sat on my mat, in the heat, with the lights down low and the music soft so obviously this was before class.  As I sat there I thought to myself the things I feel are most important or things that I’m thankful for and as unnecessary thoughts crept in I just kept finding something else to be thankful for.  I didn’t know when was the half-way point of the song so I waited for the next song and just said over in my mind that I had plenty of time for the important things and after a few rounds of that I went into savassana and thought to myself I do have time for meditation and it is important.

One of the things that Tim Ferris mentioned on the podcast was that meditation was not meant to clear our minds but more to make us see how we handle the rest of the day and situations that come up.  The more he does it the better his days go and that is what he is trying to achieve.  I know I can’t eliminate stress but I certainly can manage it, I just have to learn how and use the tools to do so.

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ELIMINATING MORE FOODS

I have had good success with eliminating grains, legumes, soy, sugar, nightshades and dairy so now I’m ready to tackle eliminating eggs.  The thought process behind eliminating eggs is that they tend to be disruptive on the digestion of someone with an autoimmune disease.  The egg white is what protects the yolk in nature and can be a trigger for autoimmune.  I have remained certain that I did not have any problem with eggs but the true test is to take it out of my diet for next 21 days and see how I really feel.  If after 21 days I eat an egg I should be able to tell fairly quickly if it is food I leave out or can put back in. This elimination is tough for me because eggs were my breakfast staple.

I started drinking protein shakes in the morning but ditched my current protein because it had sugar in it.  I have a new vegetable blend with no sugar, soy, or any other ingredients that I don’t want and I mix it with kale, frozen strawberries, a splash of coconut milk and water.  The first couple of shakes were not my favorite but they did keep me pretty full for a while.  This morning I had one that I actually thought tasted pretty good so I think my taste buds are changing.  I really like having a shake in the morning because it is easy and quick and I know exactly what I’m having and I don’t have to think about it. Cutting the sugar and artificial sweeteners has made a real difference in how I feel.  My mind as cluttered as it is, is actually working better and I haven’t dealt with brain fog in a really long time.

After I get through eggs for a bit then I’ll attack nuts and seeds.  The idea is to get to a meat, vegetable, good fat, and fruit diet and see how my inflammation levels react.  Since I have a doctor’s apt soon I need to start the elimination to see if there is any change.  It might seem hard to eliminate these foods but meal planning is much easier and the food we are making tastes really good.  It would be harder if my husband was eating different foods but since we have the same dinner and basically the same lunches and snacks it all works.  I’ll continue the elimination process and see if I can’t truly reduce my inflammation.

STRESS

 I know better than anyone that stress can trigger a flare in MCTD with days of residual fatigue. However, stress in general even if it doesn’t create a flare can cause real changes in the body.  I bring this up because my stress level has been high the last couple of weeks.  I am trying to combat it with yoga, but lately while I’m in yoga I’m just thinking about life and the stress I’m under.

I can usually pride myself on being able to get 8 solid hours of sleep every night, now I just hope I get 4 and I’m not total exhausted when I finally get up and start my day. I even find myself reading at 1am or 2am until it is time to go to the gym.  I am writing in my journal more but not blog as much.  I want to blog but I know that there are people out there that need positive words and I too need positive words but I’m having a hard time finding them.  I want them, I need them, I’m searching for them all the time but what keeps popping in my mind is how will you get everything done?  How will you handle this upcoming situation? How will you make this work? 

I feel as though I’m being tested right now in my life.  I felt this another time when I was diagnosed with MCTD and getting married.  I passed that test and I know I’ll pass this test.  Even loving support from my family is not exactly what I need right now. What I truly need is to find balance.  I went to Bikram last night after a grooling day and as I’m in my balancing postures I kept thinking don’t fall out.  Prove to yourself that you can find the balance. As soon as you let your mind wander you fall, it is the nature of the beast but somehow even when I fell I knew I could get right back in and find my balance.

I need to find my balance in life.  I had balance in life but that was past tense, I need it again and soon.  My word for this year is commitment, so I have to keep reminding myself to be committed to finding the balance I so desperately seek.

Now, the good thing is that this stress has not caused a MCTD flare and I’m at 65 days without a MCTD flare. My body feels extremely strong and I’m hoping to keep going on this same path of being flare-up free but I need my mind as strong as my body and my spirit as strong as my body so I have the mental strength to rid this stress and live in my calm.

4 DAYS OF BIKRAM

 I have been to Bikram the last 4 days in a row and the warmth in that studio is enough to temporarily make me forget how cold it is outside.  I run from my car to the studio to avoid the crisp air and then sprint from the studio back to car to really avoid the deadly cold. I wish I could bottle up the warmth I feel in the Bikram studio and use is it as I need it throughout the day.  In general my body temperature runs warm and layer for even added warmth benefits but when I hit the outside temperatures my body temp drops fast and once I get cold it is hard to warm back up.  I used daily bikram last winter to combat that cold feeling and hoping that I find enough time each day to do the same thing this winter.

Raynaud’s is my biggest MCTD symptom and I am considered having a severe case as my fingers are purple most of the time.  They no longer turn white and very rarely do they even tingle but they seem to be permanently discolored a purple tint.  My toes are the exact same way.  They do start to turn pink again the Bikram studio but it happens after I have been in there for a bit of time.  I was listening to a podcast that I generally like but someone said what are the ways to relieve Raynaud’s and the answer was daily exercise. If it was that easy I would be cured.  I realize that exercise helps with many things and someone might actually see and feel some benefits regarding Raynaud’ s by incorporating daily exercise, but I have been exercising every day without fail for many years and I’m not where cured.  Also, there is more than just changing diet as well for me and my Raynaud’s.  I do feel grateful that I don’t have to take daily medication in the form of a blood pressure pill to help my Raynaud’s and that there are other things I can take like Niacin or exercise or use Bikram instead.  Bikram helps with so many things for me especially my mental clarity.

THE MIND IS SO STRONG

Usually when I’m having conversations with people about exercise and I hear them say they cannot do something my reaction is always to remind them that the mind will give out long before the body.  Our minds are programmed to take it easy and find the least complicated way of doing something.  Even the most disciplined people have to face the fact that our minds are so strong and can literally talk us into anything. Perhaps your mind/inner voice tells you to stay in bed and it is just easier than getting up so you do.  I have had this same inner voice start creeping into my life recently especially in the mornings.  I stayed in a bed a couple of mornings recently because I wasn’t sleeping well and thought that I should choose sleep over exercise but what I have found is that just those few times has made my mind tell me to stay in bed more and more.  I usually just get up early and start my day so I know my mind is speaking louder than normal.

I did get up this morning and went to Bikram which felt great on the body and the mind and my “fatigue” was gone so I know that it was the right decision to get up and proceed with my workout.  That brings me to my next big revelation about my over controlling mind…  I decided I would give intermittent fasting a try today.  I had a nice solid dinner last night and since my workout this morning was just Bikram, no cross fit or anything else I should be able to IF at least until noon which is my short term goal. The idea is to be able to fast for a full 24 hours but I’m working on a 16-18 hour goal to start.  My brain has not stopped thinking about food since I decided to do this IF experiment.  I think I need something to eat right now and I really cannot focus on anything else at the moment.  I’m not hungry, not really but the not being able to focus is making my day feel like I’m completely out of my routine.

My water intake is much greater today because I’m replacing that with food. I know I need more water during my days but always seem to forget about it.  Since I’m completely focused on food and water I’m getting all kinds of good liquids today and not able to “forget” about it.  What if food really wasn’t available to me?  That seems like an unlikely scenario since we are constantly surround by food but I hear people say that they don’t need to eat every few hours when eating a Paleoish diet and yet I’m not one of those people.

Granted, I am very active but still I would think that I could go 12-16 hours without too much difficulty.  I’m going to keep trying and perhaps I can perfect the art of IF.

HOLDING WEIGHTS

Yesterday during my Cross fit session we did a lot of dumbbell weight training and since my strength is improving I grabbed some heavier weights than normal.  I learned very quickly that my muscles are strong enough to endure the new weight but my hands don’t have the strength to grip a dumbbell that well and then to add the weight to it my grip was even less.  I struggle with my hand strength and find it hard to make fists many days from stiffness and just the sheer volume of my hands and fingers with the added fluid.

I was talking to my trainer and when I’m using a weight machine I don’t have to grip so hard because the machine helps me so I can really increase my weight by a lot on those.  Using the dumbbell, as I grip it I feel my hands stiffen and then in motion I feel them slip.  We are going to work on my hand strength by having me carry dumbbells around and put them down when I slip and pick them back until I can start to gain the strength needed.  This trainer is not an autoimmune expert even though I have had other trainers tell me they were experts in training people with autoimmune, but I think what this trainer has is an understanding of women in general.  If an older woman walks in with arthritic hands she won’t be able to hold a dumbbell right away so I think she knows what women in general need.

I’m learning so much from her, and I’m learning so much about myself.  I was once a “delicate flower” as my husband so lovingly likes to call me but not anymore.  He has truly seen me change in front of his very eyes in the last 6 or 7 months.  There was a time when he wouldn’t want to ask me to do certain things for fear that I couldn’t or wouldn’t or even shouldn’t.  Now he has no problem asking me to go get a 50lbs bag of pellets for our wood stove.  This is really liberating for both of us.  The other day we lost electricity, which happens pretty regularly rural Maine so I’m used to it.  In the past I would have gone upstairs and woken up my loving husband to ask him if he could manually open our garage door so I could head to the gym.  This particular morning I went out to the garage popped the chain and lifted the garage door by myself and headed to the gym for my cross fit session.  This might not seem like a big deal to most people but when you feel like you have limitations you are overcoming regardless of how big or small this is a huge accomplishment.  My husband was shocked, but awed and realizes his once delicate wife that could barely walk out to the mailbox 9 years ago is lifting garage doors, doing 130 push-ups, walking 15k steps a day,  putting on snowshoes to go snowshoeing by herself and truly enjoying life.  There is real reward in that for both of us.

SUPER IMMUNE

Does it seem like everywhere you go someone is coughing, sneezing, and make noises that should not come from a human as they fight whatever illness they have at that particular time? I see these people at the gym and wonder what they have been touching so I don’t.  I encounter these people all day long at work and wonder what they got into and if they are realize that washing their hands and keeping their hands away from their faces is so important.  I find these people at the grocery store and usually in the produce aisle or cold and flu aisle. This time of year it seems as though everyone is so focused on building their immune system.  Making it better and stronger and taking supplements to assist in that effort.

I on the other hand am doing everything possible to keep my immune system quiet. My immune system is in overdrive so if I get a “bug” my immune system kicks in to take care of the bug but doesn’t know when you stop and starts to attack joints, muscles, ligaments and anything else it can get in contact with.  Echinacea is a supplement that people look high and low for this time of year but for me it just screams stronger immune system.  When I go to bed with a sore throat or wake up with a sore throat I know my body is working to fight something.  This is not an indication to me that I’m getting sick this is an indication that if the bug is small enough I will fight without too much difficulty, but it can also mean that I’m on the edge of a flare and if my body goes too far off track I will end up with the soreness, burning, nausea, fever and other various flare symptoms.

There was a time in my MCTD life that a sore throat absolutely meant a full blown flare.  Now my body recognizes it as an indication to step back and take notice.  I’m at 47 days without a flare but this morning when I woke up with a sore throat I had 2 choices.  My first choice and usually the route I take is to push through it and warm up in Bikram as well as sweat out whatever might be in my system.  I really wanted to choose this route this morning except that it was extremely cold here so I did choice number 2 which was stay in bed and try to get a little bit more rest.  When I finally woke I felt like completely better and have had a good day so far.  The problem with not starting my day off with some form of exercise first thing in the morning is because the rest of the day can get away from me and before I know it I haven’t done much.  This is a pattern I don’t want to fall into so on days like this morning I am conscience of my pedometer which I wear every day but on days like this I make sure I at least get in my 10k steps however, I can throughout my day.  It won’t be easy since I didn’t start out doing something but it is still totally manageable and makes me very aware.

The idea of resting when I need it is good and I’m committed to taking notice more times when I need rest over exercise or rest over friends and family but I also know that my body needs to be mobile, active and stay energized so I am committed to doing both, rest and activity. One does not win over the other it is a finding the right balance.  The good thing is that I will still hit the Bikram studio today to get the warmth in my bones but my practice is better in the mornings.  Tomorrow is a new morning.