Rest and Digest

This year has been a rollar coaster. I can’t wait to have a break and finally get to a few things around the house. This crazy busy time has led me to reflect on a few things though.
We spend our lives stressed out. When we are stressed our sympathetic nervous system is active. This system kicks in our “fight or flight” mode. Our heart beats faster, our blood sugar raises, our digestion is put on hold and our pupils dilate. All great things if we are being chased by a bear, not so great if we are sitting in traffic. Did you notice where I said our blood sugars raise? Imagine now what happens when our blood sugar is raised due to stress and we grab a doughnut in the morning for breakfast. Our sugars go sky high and if left uncontrolled, diabetes eventually follows.

 While many of us are not grabbing a doughnut for breakfast, we are still eating while we are stressed and that still has an extremely negative impact on our blood sugar. So how do we calm down?
The sympathetic nervous system has a partner system called the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is meant to kick in after stress is over.Often referred to as our “rest and digest” mode, this system lowers our blood sugar, returns our heartbeat to normal and turns our digestion back on. Pretty important huh? In today’s world though, the stress never seems to be over. This means we have to actually remind our bodies to manually kick on the parasympathetic nervous system. We can actually do that by breathing. Sounds simple right? See we have a nerve in our nose called the olfactory nerve and when we breathe in deeply and slowly, this nerve is activated. This nerve is directly linked to the parasympathetic nervous system. Essentially serving as a manual switch that turns the sympathetic system off and the parasympathetic on. I want to share a technique I recently learned and have empolyed with great success. 

Before eating take a deep breath in through your nose, while mentally counting to 4. Hold this breathe for a count of 10, then slowly blow out through your mouth. It is important to blow out slowly or you may feel light headed. Repeat 10 times. 

Your parasympathetic system should now be fully engaged and your body is ready to digest your food without spiking your blood sugar. This means better nutrient absorption, lower blood sugars and frankly a better eating experience. Don’t forget to put away all electronic devices and treat every meal like a special occasion. 

I hope this helps you understand the why behind relaxing while eating and gives you the tools that you need. Drop a comment below if you have questions I love to hear from my readers!

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Joy and the mindful Christian

I want to first take a moment to say thank you for your love and support. I am uplifted by the encouragement and well wishes you have all passed on to me. I know it has been a while since my last post. I have been so busy with work and now school that, any moment I could find to myself was spent in rest and recovery. I can now say that the decision to focus on rest and recuperation has paid off. I have finally reached the point where my energy is full and I feel vibrant again. In my time of rest and prayer God lead me to a renewed motivation. A motivation I had been struggling to regain for some time.

Do you know what it means to be vibrant? To grasp everyday as a day where only the best can happen? Even when the worst happens, you still have a praise in your heart? To greet those you pass in love and appreciation. To revel in the simple moments in life, even the hard ones. The more I describe vibrancy, the more it sounds like joy. A joy from the Lord. The joy that is our strength. I have been filled with such a gratefulness this past week. I have been led to so many great resources that have enriched my life. I have begun to experience energy, love and clarity that I have never known before. I would be remiss to not point to the joy of the Lord above all else as the source of my health and energy. I also want to bring up some techniques and some steps that have helped me along the way. My hope is that they will enrich your life as much as they have mine.

 

Stretching.

God gave us a body. A body that functions in ways science still cannot grasp. This body was made to move. Today’s modern world has our bodies so cooped up. We sit at desks all day, we go through the same repetitive motions whether you are a day laborer or a CEO your routines include the same motions done over and over in a sequence that wears on our bodies. Our muscles tense and we form knots and trigger points that lead to dysfunction and disease. Migraines anyone? Our bodies are longing to be used in ways that facilitate a full range of motion. One of the ways to do this is to find time to stretch. I know in the evangelical community we shy away from yoga and many times for good reason (which is an entirely different post, for a different time.). This still doesn’t mean we should avoid stretching. We were made to move.

When you get up in the morning try to move every single joint in your body at least once. This actually causes a fluid exchange in our joints that helps prevent stagnation and inflammation. Stretching in this way increases your circulation and can help decrease the risk of blood clots when it is repeated several times through the day. Touch your toes, do some squats, You don’t have to run a marathon, just move your body. Pinterest has so many good guides to stretching. Do a quick search and you will find yourself supplied with adequate instructional guides to help you get started. Please remember to take things slow though. Injuries are the opposite of what we are trying to do here.

 

Breathe.

We all breathe. Some of us louder then others, (Especially when you have to walk up 2 flights of stairs with a 50lb backpack.) but how much do you think about your breath? Did you know that a majority of our daily weight loss actually comes from breathing?  Yep, crazy. So how is your breathing? Take 5 moments in the middle of your day and just breathe. Feel the breath move in and out. Feel your body where it is. What do your shoes feel like? Where do you hurt? Is your breath shallow or deep? What sounds are around you? Is there something stressing you out? Just take these 5 moments to breathe, relax be present in your own body and ask yourself these questions. You might find that your body is trying to tell you something. You just have to stop and listen.

 

Keep your goals in front of you.

What are your goals? How will you get there? We look at our cell phones 5 billion times a day. (I counted.) Use that screen for good. Usually our lock screens are programmable and we can set our own image on there. I searched and found an image that fully encompassed my goals and dreams. Then I edited the image by adding text to it. The text was a reminder of the 4 things I am currently focusing on in my health journey. I see this screen almost every time I look at my phone. Every time I see this image I am filled with hope and reminded to keep going.

Another way to keep yourself motivated would be to look up motivation quotes and place them where you will see them. For me this is in my daily planner. I try to have a quote everyday that resonates with my hopes and dreams. I also look at pictures I find inspiring. I fill my eyes with light instead of dark violent images that are all too common in this world.

 

Add new meaning to your devotions.

God inhabits the praises of his people. Have you heard the song that says “count your blessings name them one by one. count your blessings see what God has done.”? Apply that to your prayer life. Buy stones of different colors and assign each color a category. Home, love, friends, family, school, work, church etc. Each day as you start your devotion, close your eyes and draw a stone out of the pile. Which ever category that stone represents is your praise for the day. Let’s say I drew the stone that represented family. I would take a few moments to think of three things I could praise the Lord for in my family. The same can be done for any category you draw. When you go to the Lord in prayer that day start off with those praises. Let him know how much you appreciate his mercy and love. Carry that stone with you through out the day. Every time you reach in your pocket you will be reminded of your blessings. In those moments praise God again for all he has done.

 

Go to Bed.

Enough said. Get some sleep and wake up ready to take on the day. If this is a struggle, consider the use of essential oils to help you unwind. Decide whether a ban on electronics after a certain time should be enforced. Create a routine and your body will begin to respond. Your body will also begin to thank you when it gets sleep!

 

 

Our lives are so hectic that these days we barely have time to shower and eat before heading out the door. At some point we need to say stop. We need to build in stress relievers and motivators to our day. We need to be mindful in our actions, thoughtful of our body’s needs and sensitive to the needs of others. I know in some Christian communities mindfulness can invoke thoughts of the occult or earth worship but, we must remember that God gave us a body to be good stewards of. He gave us a mind to use. He meant for our senses to be engaged everyday. He meant for his children to dance before him, rejoicing in the vibrancy he alone can grant. So get up! Stretch. Breathe. Praise. Be mindful of your body. Sleep and repeat.

Goooood Morning Vietnam! 

Ok, so I am not in Vietnam; but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to start out on that note!  I want to start out talking a little bit about stress management.  For a lot of us who struggle with long term illness we often find we become (or were born) the kind of person who is all over the place.  We want to do everything we can to get better!  The result?  We try this therapy then that therapy.  We take this supplement then that supplement.  We go to this class and read that blog.  We read fifty different diet and lifestyle books… and try to follow every single one.  Am I the only one guilty of this?  No, I didn’t think so. (over thinkers unite!)

Unfortunately this often leaves us tired, stressed, and at times unable to sleep.  We are just trying to do what is best for our bodies but, in reality we can be undoing all the good we originally set out to do.  As this is something I have personally experienced I thought a good start to this blog would be to tell you all one thing.

Stop. (Collaborate and listen🎶)

No seriously…stop….take a few deep breathes….now check out a few of the things I have found personally helpful in my quest to de-stress.

1. Find a hobby

Mine is crocheting.  I couldn’t stand the feeling of doing nothing however; I was too exhausted to do anything substantial so I found a relaxing distraction that allowed me to turn my brain off and still be doing something semi useful.  (Everyone needs leg warmers right?)  You can find something too.  All that is needed is an activity you enjoy and one that doesn’t add stress.  An idea may be walking, gardening, card making, scrap booking, sewing, collecting, puzzles or even cooking.  Resist making this activity a job or deadline orientated.  I know it can be a struggle.  I do sell my crochet projects on the side and I’m obviously doing this. I have learned though when you go all gung ho….second (or third) job style… It really defeats the purpose of relaxing.  Which brings me to my second point.

2. When you say yes to one thing, you say no to something else

This is really important to remember.  There is only so much space in one day.  In order to make the most of it, do the important things first.  If family game night is important to you, skip that sports game on TV.  If you already have three up coming dead lines at work; resist taking on more in your personal life.  If Jimmy is in soccer – do you always have to be the chauffeur?  These scenarios are just examples of choices we make everyday.  You might think you can’t say no but remember….you all ready are saying no, just don’t always realize it.  Your life is made up of the choices you make each moment of the day.  If you really want to help your recovery, make a choice to do less.
3. Say yes to more sleep

Remember what we just talked about?  Well, getting more sleep is a choice and a choice we should all make.  New studies show that even just 30 minutes less sleep per night actually increases your likelihood of developing major health problems.  Sleep is very important in the recovery process of any illness.  Your brain literally detoxifies while you sleep.  If you don’t get enough sleep your brain cannot get rid of enough toxins.  I don’t know about you but, I don’t want my brain floating in toxins.  Now I understand that sometimes life is what it is, do the best you can.  Don’t stress out about perfection.  Start by trying to get 30 extra minutes per night then you are getting now.  Baby steps girlfriend. 😉
4. Take 10

Ladies (and gentlemen) sometime we need a time out!  I reached the ripe old age of 24 😆 and realized I had no idea how to relax.  Hours in front of the TV just is not the same as sitting quietly and doing some deep breathing.  Just ten minutes a day can make a huge difference.  When I began to do this I noticed instead of feeling lethargic I felt energized after my “time out.”  It takes a little bit of training your body and mind but, it is so worth it.  When the day starts to take a toll on you, take 10.
5. Remember that things take time.

When you start a new treatment, supplement, or dietary change don’t expect everything to get instantly better.  Most doctors want you to stick it out at least three months.  Your skin is regenerates every 27 days.  Your brain rebuilds itself in one year.  Nothing happens overnight.  Don’t get discouraged if things take longer to heal.  Get encouraged that your body does actually heal itself! There is hope. Sometimes you get worse before you get better but just relax and commit yourself to being in it for the long haul.  “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was ending, it became a butterfly”
6. Start your day off right 

This is one of the most important things I can say.  Start your day off with God.  The Bible says “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee.” (Psalms 55:22)  “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”  (1Peter 5:7)  He cares for us and sustains us.  When we start our day off by laying our cares on Jesus we are free to be sustained by the strength God gives.  We can’t rest until we let go.  If we start off our day by holding on to everything and through out the day we pick up more and more…. eventually we will not be able to hold it all. Something is going to fall, many times you will fall with it.  Some advocate meditation or self awareness, but in my experience meditation pulls you inward.  Devotion time with God pulls your focus away from yourself and onto his desires and his love for others.  Pour out your stress to God and allow him to pour his joy into that space, then share that joy with the world.
These are just a few of the ways I hit the pause button.  When my mind becomes over active, and the stress of chasing my health overwhelms me; I have to breathe and remember that stress is the enemy.  Often times causing more damage then my original problem.  Remember to take all things slow.  We didn’t get sick overnight, and we are not going to get better overnight.  When you are sick or stressed you need to remember that taking a break does not make you lazy.  It helps you heal.  There is hope and healing for all.

So get ready, set, STOP.

-Lady Bug