mental / emotional / spiritual health

We talk about having a “go-bag” for natural disasters. How about having a plan in place for mental / emotional / spiritual problems? Do you have a daily practice that keeps you grounded and stable? What can you share of that to help others? Many of you know that I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder for nearly 20 years. I have committed myself twice, and am in recovery. That being said – I have also been married for 14 years, held the same job for 17 years, and have excellent credit and health. All of that happened after my diagnosis. There is a LOT that I do to keep myself sober – mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. Mental/emotional/spiritual health is an inside job and requires as much work as physical health – if not more so, because our society doesn’t value it. Perhaps it is time to. We have lost too many people to suicide, to substance abuse, to mass murder. We have a mental-health epidemic going on. Sanity starts with each person, making tiny daily steps on a consistent basis, towards getting stronger. It isn’t easy, but it is essential.

Things I do –
No substance abuse – this includes the usual suspects but also I severely limit caffeine and sugar of all sorts.
Daily exercise.
Reading the Bible.
Making art.
Doing worksheets for my emotional health.
Doing family of origin work.

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Stuffy nose message

I had a friend who was complaining of a stuffy nose. He wanted some tea for it, but I wasn’t sure what to use. I gave him what I had but it wasn’t enough. Later I prayed about it and this was the message I received.

(Please research this for yourself. I am not a doctor.)

Stuffy nose can be cured by rose petals – fresh, in hot water, inhaled.
The message is “stop to smell the roses.”
Pause to appreciate life, don’t take life (or any experience) for granted.
Look for the beauty in the moment.
Be always on the lookout for tiny moments of joy.

Stuffy nose represents a fear to breathe deeply, expansively. It represents a lack of trust that all will go well. Deeper – it represents a lack of belief that all is already well – that here and now is good. Trust in God in all things.

Poem – your body is a sanctuary

Your body is a sanctuary,
a home to a
piece of the
light
of God.

Just like a regular home,
you have to maintain it.
Just like a mosque
or a church
or a synagogue
or a temple,
you want to make sure
it is clean
and strong.

It is an act of worship,
of respect to God
to take care of your body
– to eat healthy food,
get exercise
and enough sleep,
to not put any poisons in it.

Just as you would not
dump a bag
of trash
in a house of God,
do not do so
to your body.

You wouldn’t allow vandals in,
who leave the place a shambles,
a wreck,
so don’t allow people
into your mind
who attack you
by bringing your down.

You are the keeper
and the guardian
of your sanctuary.
It is a gift from God to you.
How you take care of it
is your gift
back to God.
A strong, healthy body
is better able
to be of service
to God
by serving
the world.

Menopause hacks

These are things that helped me get through to menopause. Think of it as transforming from a caterpillar to a butterfly – the old rules don’t work anymore. Everything is changing, and it gives you a chance to re-invent yourself into a new and better you. Meanwhile, the process can be quite difficult with the hot flashes and night sweats.

Half-blanket. Have the heavier covering on your legs, and a lighter covering on your torso.

Lower the thermostat in your house when you sleep.

Make art. You are transitioning from being physically creative – you can no longer have babies. But the need to be creative is still there. Making art on a regular basis (ideally, daily) is very helpful. Don’t have an agenda – crayons and fingerpainting works very well. Plus, art helps you process the new feelings and emotions that you are experiencing. It is essentially a new language.

Soy milk. I drink organic vanilla soy milk, (the store brand from Publix is great) every evening. I prefer mine room temperature. Don’t think it is going to taste like milk. It doesn’t. You’ll get used to it about the time you notice you’re feeling better. It is all a choice.

Black Cohosh. Consult with your doctor first. This can be harmful if you have high blood pressure or heart problems. For me, I ended up taking 40 mg doses of it, three times a day.

Avoid caffeine, meat, sugar, processed and/or fried foods. Cook fresh foods from scratch. Get organic as much as possible. Spicy foods make things worse. Drink lots of water. Daily exercise – 20 minutes of walking. Water aerobics is a godsend.

Yoga. Take some classes first to learn how to do it right, then you can do it every day at your house.

Learn to set boundaries. Now is a time to learn to tell people No. See my “resources” section for book lists – under “survival”.

Daily journaling. This does not have to be public in blog form, but it can if that helps you stick to it. I write every day in a paper journal, and most every day in the blog. Sometimes what I write in the paper journal ends up in the blog, sometimes it is private.

Heartburn cure

I had bad heartburn and talked to my nutritionist. He told me that the problem is that our stomachs produce LESS acid as we get older, not more. The solution is to add more acid instead of take antacids.

The dosage is determined by taking a tablespoonful of apple cider vinegar (The brand to use is Bragg’s, with “the mother”) after a meal. Simply take it straight. Wait. If you feel burning in your stomach, stop there. You don’t need more acid added to your diet.

If not, take two spoonfuls of it at the next meal. Wait and see how your stomach feels. There will be a burning sensation in your throat – that is normal. This is acetic acid, after all. You want to see if you feel burning in your stomach, and this takes a little time to reveal itself.

If there is no burning, repeat the test by taking three spoonfuls at the next meal. You can take up to four spoonfuls.

When you feel the burn, then your dosage is one less than that. So afterwards, take that number of spoonfuls in a glass of water (you can add a spoonful of honey), after each meal.

Also, while out and about, you can take a supplement called betaine hydrochloride instead. It is much easier than toting around a glass bottle of vinegar.

Now, this does not mean that you can “eat like a kid again” like the heartburn medicine ads tell you. It is like trying to keep a house intact by setting it on fire and then dousing it with water. It is better to not set it on fire in the first place. Your body is your first and best home. It is important to treat it well, because you can’t buy another house when this one falls apart.

It is insane to think of hot dogs and funnel cakes as “food”. Avoid fried and greasy foods not because they give you heartburn, but because they are unhealthy and will kill you. Eat fresh, colorful foods – more vegetables than meat.

Comfort food?

Why don’t we skip the food part of “comfort food” to go straight into comfort?

Part of the problem is that we have equated everything with food. If there’s a party, there’s food. If there’s grief, there’s food. Happy or sad, we use food. We use food to celebrate and to bring ourselves out of a funk. Food is equated with feeling good.

We self-medicate with food all the time, in part because this is what we were taught to do. We aren’t taught how to deal with our feelings or with problems.

We teach our children that if they are upset they should put something in their mouths. We do it with actual food or we do it with a pacifier. This is incredibly unhealthy. You may think food isn’t as bad as drugs but the side effects of overeating can include obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. And the problem still isn’t solved. The reason for the need for comfort is still there.

Real medicine

I knew a lady who was cold. It was early in the morning and she was shivering. She asked her daughter to get her a hot cup of coffee. She hadn’t slept well all night. We have been in a camping event so there wasn’t any central heat. She hadn’t brought enough blankets either. I looked at how she was sitting – all hunched over, hugging her arms to herself. This was a physical coldness and it didn’t need to be fixed by putting something into her, especially a stimulant. That would make her feel worse with her lack of sleep.

Her hair was thinning a little so I offered her a knit cap. We lose most of our heat through our heads. She put the cap on and within 10 minutes she was visibly warmer. She relaxed her shoulders and rested her arms on the table instead of hugging herself. She was a lot more comfortable. It was a simple fix that didn’t require coffee.

I had a coworker who had a headache one day and he asked for a Tylenol. I gave him one. Two days later he said he had another headache. He asked for another Tylenol. I didn’t give him one this time. He was young and needed to learn how to take care of himself. By that I mean more than just buying his own supplies instead of expecting other people to supply his needs.

More importantly, he needed to learn how to take care of himself by fixing the cause and not the symptom. The symptom just points to the cause. I told him to go drink water. If he didn’t feel better after 20 minutes (which is about the same time that a Tylenol would take) then I would give him a Tylenol. He went over to the water fountain had a sip. I said “No, keep drinking until I tell you to stop.” He needed to have 16 ounces of water, not a sip. I watched him drink and counted off the time and then told him to stop.

I forgot about keeping time on purpose. An hour later I pointed out to him that he hadn’t asked for a Tylenol again. His headache was gone.

Likewise, we have a guy who is studying to be a doctor who is there every day at the library. He’s a doctor in another country, but America won’t take his credentials. He has to take the exam here to be licensed here. He’s been studying every day and he’s not been taking care of himself. It is starting to show.

His hair isn’t brushed, his clothes are rumpled, and he now is saying that he can’t sleep and he has a headache. He asked me for a Tylenol. Rather than give him that kind of medicine, I gave him real medicine. Whether he takes it or not is up to him.

Real medicine is to suggest he take time off, go eat healthy food (all he eats is meat and rice), go exercise, and spend time with his wife. He says that he can’t leave his studies. He doesn’t get that if he doesn’t take care of himself, then it doesn’t matter what he studies – it won’t go in.

We’ve talked about preventative medicine before and he blows me off. He’ll make a fine western doctor if he passes. They treat the symptoms and not the cause too.

I tell him about friends of mine who are now off their diabetes medicine because they eat healthy food, exercise, and have lost weight. He thinks I’m lying. He says it isn’t possible.

He even brings his food to the library. Somehow they have an understanding in the department he studies in. He’s got a little crock-pot that he plugs in to heat up his food. He doesn’t even have to cook it. He gets it from his in-laws. When I say he needs to take time away from his studies and go outside the library for lunch, he says he can’t eat anywhere else because he has to eat food that is halal because he’s Muslim. I point out that you can eat vegetarian food and be perfectly safe. He wrinkles his nose at me.

It is hard to watch people drown.

Sure, I could give him a Tylenol. But that is aiding and abetting.

I’d be like the doctor who gave my Dad a prescription for cough medicine, knowing that he smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. Of course he coughed. Cough medicine isn’t the right medicine. Real medicine would be to refuse to treat him until he stopped smoking. Real medicine would be to direct him to smoking-cessation programs. Real medicine would be to help him learn better ways to deal with stress than smoking.

Real medicine involves hard work, not a pill. Real medicine involves being mindful and disciplined. It features daily exercise, no stimulants, no refined sugar, and lots of vegetables. It includes focusing on breathing. It includes learning to speak up for yourself. It includes being creative. It includes making time to rest. It includes working towards your dreams. It isn’t easy.

Becoming conscious is a lot like becoming sober.