Coping with Loneliness: How to Not Face Your Battles on Your Own

I was reading through Facebook posts when I spied a post from a friend I hadn’t talked to in a while. I felt a tremendous urge to reach out and talk to them. I was experiencing loneliness. Loneliness may have been a growing healthcare concern before the pandemic, but since the pandemic, its become epidemic.

Daniel Perlman Ph.D. and Letitia Anne Peplau Ph.d., psychologists and authors on loneliness theory defined loneliness as, “Loneliness is the unpleasant experience that occurs when a person’s network of social relationships is deficient in some important way…

What is Causing Loneliness Today?

loneliness

Coming to the realization that you are lonely may not be easy to identify. Having family and friends around makes loneliness less obvious. Zig Ziglar, a famous American salesperson, and motivational speaker, said, “The first step in solving a problem is recognizing it does exist.

Today, there is a situational component to loneliness…social distancing. All those activities that allowed us to interact with others have been reduced or eliminated. Social distancing unintentionally became a training ground for social isolation and loneliness.

And loneliness can have repercussions. Nick Morgan, Ph.D. identified how loneliness can become a vicious circle, “The parts of the brain that respond to threats become more agitated. As a result, we may become more hostile to those around us, thus further pushing people away and making us lonelier still.

Yet, social distancing isn’t the only contributor to social isolation and loneliness. Political polarization has reduced friendships and conversations. Dr. Jan-Willem van Prooijen, Endowed Professor of Radicalization, Extremism, and Conspiracy thinking at Maastricht University identified “anxious uncertainty” as a cause of political polarization. He goes on to identify “anxious uncertainty” as having roots in “anxiety about their economic future.” This can have the unintended consequence of pitting people against each other.

Sharing Purpose in Life

What can you do to change? Dr. Sheldon Cohen, professor at Carnegie Melon University, found positive social interactions reduce the impact of stress and can foster a sense of meaning and purpose in life.

loneliness

Make a goal to acknowledge people. Grocery clerks, customer service members, anyone you interact with, try noticing them. Asking the clerk how their day is going or have they been busy can open up an avenue for positive social interaction. Thanking the customer service person for their help can make their day more rewarding. Leaving a tip tells your waitstaff you know they are here and appreciate the time they give you. Try a different method of engaging with friends who are politically polarized.

Learning New Ways to Connect

The pandemic has spent almost two years recreating how people socialize. Although people long for in-person social interactions, the American Psychology Association “Stress in America” poll found, “…Nearly half of Americans (49%) said they feel uneasy about adjusting to in-person interaction once the pandemic ends.”

People have turned to online social interactions. People use online communities in ways that go beyond the office zoom meeting or facebook post. Group interaction is expanding with new rules of engagement while allowing individuals to manage their social anxiety. “There’s a ‘safety element’ to showing up via video chat,” related one online user.

And these new rules of engagement are also changing how people communicate with each other. Michigan-based sexologist Megan Stubbs has observed. “I see more avenues of communication being open. People are talking more and getting more specific about their needs…Distance necessitates this. When you’re not in the same room… you can’t rely on body language and subtle cues.

And the APA Stress poll found “the majority of those who have had online social interactions since the coronavirus pandemic started (84%) said these engagements have helped them cope with stress.

Old-school is Still Useful

Today, technology has created avenues of communication and social interaction while the pandemic creates new communication methods. Yet, there is still the old-school method of a telephone call. Reaching out to old friends could help fill that part of your social network that is lacking right now. Friendships happened over time, sometimes years. Friendship author and speaker Shasta Nelson in her book, “Friendships don’t just happen,” recognizes, ” Our friendships did not just magically appear out of nowhere; they were birthed and fostered in a container of consistent time together.

Friendships have a special bond of intimacy. Even though time may have changed you or them, friendships connect at a deep level. Friendships connect through your core identity. These are parts of your beliefs and attitudes that will always be a part of you.

So, I took that and reached out to my friend, who I hadn’t talked to in years, and we were able to hook up again. It was amazing. There has never been another friend like her. That’s the neat thing about friends. No two friends are the same.

Within fifteen minutes of our two-hour conversation, she had me laughing at the plight of being human while running out of toilet paper and recklessly challenging the status quo on bathing. That deep ability to laugh at the stupidest things was exactly what I was missing in my social network of a world too serious.

4 Ways to Improve Loneliness for You and Everyone Around You

Acknowledge PeopleOvercome the Social Dilemma
Find ways to acknowledge people. People need to know their effort has value & they are seen. Something as simple as a “thank-you” can change a day.Realize the social dilemma only has to be personal if you want it to be. This is overwhelming and you have the option to respond or let it go when someone you know becomes a disrupter.
Challenge YourselfParticipate in Old-School
Individuals are experiencing new ways of communicating through online forums. Challenge yourself to participate in chat or different online group social activities.Reaching out and connecting with an old friend through your cell phone can be just the relationship you need for your mental health.

UCSD/UCLA Get FDA Approval to Study Chinese Herbs to Treat COVID-19

UCSD/UCLA get FDA approval to study Chinese Herbs to Treat COVID-19. The FDA has given study approval to UCSD/UCLA to complete a double-blind study of the formula “Qing Fei Pai Du Tang” to treat acute COVID-19 symptoms.

qing fei pai du tang
Chinese herbs Chinese herbal medicine

This is the formula used in China to treat acute COVID-19 patients, and China sent the formula to Italy and Britain when China went to help these two countries overcome the first wave of COVID-19.

This is an amazing win for Chinese Medicine. For my clients who have been working with me and using Chinese Medicine to overcome their COVID-19 long-haulers or post-viral syndrome, you already know how effective Chinese herbal therapy is with long-haulers. To get more information on what is long-haulers click this link.

What’s great to see is that the government is willing to look at Chinese Medicine as a treatment for the COVID-19 infection! This is an historic event!

Click here to link to the video of the people who worked together to make this study a reality. It goes through the amount of effort and the resources they needed to bring this study to the approval stage. It’s amazing the different specialties and resources needed to consult on this project.

If you work in the Chinese Medicine field, you are probably familiar with Dr. Chen, the herbal consultant. They needed administrative staff, FDA specialist, doctors from different specialties. They had to work with the herbal sourcing to get the specific herbs approved by the FDA. It is incredible the amount of work it took and the number of resources needed to approve this project.

O.k., but that is not everything that this project does for the Chinese Medicine profession.

The critical herbs Ma Huang and Xi Xin remain in the formula. Ma Huang is highly regulated after several serious health concerns using Ma Huang (ephedra) in over-the-counter diet supplements. Practitioners can still get Ma Huang, but since the pandemic started, it is difficult. Xi Xin was banned in about 2010 due to the small amount of alkaloids in the herb.

UCSD/UCLA Get FDA Approval to Study Chinese Herbs to Treat COVID-19

Both of these herbs are incredibly effective in certain types of severe cases of flu, bronchitis, and lung congestion issues. They are so effective; there are no substitutes for them. This study has the opportunity to make Ma Huang easier to access for professional Chinese Medical providers and make Xi Xin available to Chinese Medical providers.

The study also has the opportunity to open a door for Chinese Herbal Medicine in mainstream Western Medicine. In a Western World that has focused on the potential benefits of Western Medicine to treat COVID-19, this is a historical event.

This isn’t regulating Chinese Medicine to supportive therapy. This study is asking for government approval to use Chinese Herbal therapy as a first line treatment for COVID-19. I like this study because it acknowledges a subset of people who are not getting the vaccine and how can they be treated? The current Western treatments are not enough to keep people out of the hospital.

At the beginning of this pandemic, I used a modified version of Qing Fei Pai Du Wan in clinic with great success. To get more information on this formula, check out my episode, “Deep Look Into the Statistics & Understanding Chinese Herbs for COVID-19.”

There are so many things exciting about this study and it’s potential. If you are in San Diego or Los Angeles County, this study is up and running in your area. If you are in the first 7-14 days of being sick with COVID-19, call 858-249-6896 to become a study participant. They will come to you.

Empowering Your Health! How Little Changes Create Long-term Success

Have you ever found yourself committing to some new health regime and the toll of the regime had you shelving it in one or two months? New Year’s resolutions and diets fall into this category. Your health stays the same or continues sliding down the slope of unhealthy. Yet, no one wants to be that person who finds themselves so out of shape and so sick it is too difficult to walk to the mailbox or too tired to leave the comfort of the living room.

empowering your health

“Because of our human conditioning, we all have a competitive instinct, which we can harness to compete, not against others, but with ourselves,” said Eknath Easwaran, a spiritual leader, author, and educator. “The question is not, ‘Can I be better than Harry,’ but ‘Can I be better tomorrow than I was yesterday?'”

When improving your health, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the hype and think you have to show rapid, dramatic success. When you look at all the diets, the exercise routines, and everything else that addresses health, people make it look easy. But it’s not. That makes it easy to get discouraged when hitting a bump in the road. When it comes to health, it can feel like you are the only one who can’t do it.

Empowering Your Health with Patience

What makes getting healthier so complicated? It was Saint Teresa who said, “Patience attains everything.” Most health, diet, and exercise programs are detailed instructions to attain your goal in the shortest amount of time. It’s not that these programs don’t have great information. It’s that you are overwhelmed by the program. So, it’s easy to stumble when your body, mind, or whatever has a revolt.

The Buddha says, “We learn patience by practicing it.” When changing your health habits, small, incremental steps can give you big gains. And why start with small changes? Because it’s easier to get long-term gains with minor modifications.

And all that sounds simple, but what is a small change? It’s the process of taking a complex expression and breaking it into parts to make it easier to understand. It’s a change that has you saying, “Well, that’s not a big deal. I can do that.”

Think about weight loss. Instead of saying I’m going to change everything and start with a new eating regime tomorrow, start by breaking down the new regime in steps.

If you want to eat fewer carbs, make your step specific and actionable. I wanted to reduce my carbs. I took that big goal and broke it down into steps. There were carbs that I was eating that were not good for me. By breaking the goal down into smaller and smaller pieces, I got specific and actionable items that I felt I could accomplish.

My first step? I decided to eliminate Coke-cola, the sugary caffeine high commonly consumed by non-coffee drinkers, to get an energy boost. Sounds easy, right? Well, it wasn’t. They call sugar a heron substitute for a reason. But, it was a clear step not mixed in with 15 other changes so I could focus and have a chance at success.

These small steps can take months. But suppose you can identify small incremental steps and incorporate one a month. In that case, your patience may allow you to integrate these changes into your life, making it a new daily habit.

What happens a year from now? You still have 12 new habits that an overwhelming lifestyle change could not give you. Patience gives you the time to be successful.

And what about black and white? These changes don’t have to be an all or nothing thing. Am I 100% off Coke Cola? No. But, it’s different now. I might have a Coke once every three months instead of one a day. I only have the small bottles out of Mexico that use sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. I’m cautious because sugary sodas have a weird addictive nature. The sugar turns on the craving lights in my brain.

patience and confidence

This means I don’t beat myself up when I come home from a stressful day and want to feel the buzz of Coke in my body. Patience gives you the flexibility and confidence to live in shades of gray.

Big challenges can be attainable through small changes. Little changes accomplished in your daily life can add up to that one big goal. Something as simple as saying no to soda can be your first step in achieving that big change.

How to Incorporate Patience with Simplicity 

Break down a big goal. Take your goal and break it up into different categories. The categories need only make sense to you. You don’t have to please the rest of the world. Don’t worry if someone doesn’t understand your categories. They are not the ones walking this path.
Make it simple. Simple is one item with one task. Take one of those categories and brainstorm the different things you could do to accomplish that category. Now you can take one of those things and break it down even further until you’ve identified the specific ingredient that you can change. One ingredient that is specific. 
Practice patience. Choose your change and start. For me, it was Coke. For you, it might be setting your alarm for 8 AM. Practice patience by giving yourself time and letting life happen in shades of grey. Take however long you need to feel comfortable with the new change. For me, giving up Cokes took about three months. By allowing myself to live in the greys, I didn’t beat myself up if I had a Coke once every three months.
Compete against yourself. The world is full of noise. Eknath Easwaran found that if you can work at cutting out the noise and focus on yourself, not only can you be more successful, you will be happier. Let yourself explore if you can be better tomorrow than you were yesterday. 

5 Steps for Emotional Health

Well, it’s gotten a little overwhelming again, and your stress may be trying to consume you. Here are five steps to help you keep your emotional health and balance.

Walk-in nature

Why nature? Nature is one of the great healers, and spiritual leaders of this time. Everything you need to know can be found in nature. And everything you need to put down, the stress, the anxiety, can be released in nature.

Five Element theory can help increase your interaction with nature to calm your soul. According to Five Element theory, every aspect of nature has unique qualities which will make it more effective at one thing over another. Grieving? Spend time looking up into the sky. Need your own nurturing? Take a walk in the woods. Anxiety has you running in circles? Take a walk through a grass field. 

And why a walk instead of your quad? Because when you visit a friend, you don’t bring your bike and ride around their living room. You bring yourself and sit down with your friend giving them your undivided attention. It’s even more so in nature. You can’t hear your guru when you’re racing your quad.

So, take the time to hear nature echo into your soul.

You can learn more about using nature in my blog, “Discover How to Double the Impact of Your Meditation with Nature.” or in my book “Caregivers Survival Guide, How to overcome stress in 30 minutes or less with Chinese Medicine.”

Exercise

 Stress, uncertainty, confusion all create energy in your body. You’re older now and didn’t think you would be going back to your youth when your mother would send you outside to get rid of that excess energy, but you are. Without an outlet, the emotional energy builds up and overwhelms you making it impossible to sleep, or turn off your thoughts.

What’s different from your youth…you’re older. And if you’ve been suffering from stress or anxiety, you’re probably exhausted. Take it slow. Check out the episode, “Consciously Helping Your Heart Stay Healthy.” and “Why Walking is a Good Thing.” Exercise is a release valve, and release valves don’t have to be huge like a marathon. They just have to let a little bit escape.

Breathing

Mindfulness practices have brought breathing exercises for stress to mainstream America. Thank-goodness, because when you’re someplace like at work or in a grocery store, talking a walk or exercising may not be an option. 

The most uncomplicated breathing technique is taking a slow, deep breath followed by a slow exhale. Now, suppose you’ve been staying engaged with my Youtube channel or my blog. In that case, you’re already aware that I like bringing back the ancient “why’s” like what is the significance of the trilogy in my episode, “The Power of Yin & Yang, Pt. 1 – the Creation of Life.”

So, if you’re curious about why breath is so universal and the mechanics of breathing in/out, check out my episode, “3 Steps to Improve Your Meditation: Part 1 Breath.”

And if you’re up for more specialized breathing techniques, check out the episode, “Six Healing Breaths, HE for Anxiety.”

Eat Whole Foods

When I’m stressed, the first thing I want to do is eat ice cream or chips. I think they are quick and easy and address my desire to eat even though I’m not hungry. 

What I found out is these foods have a lot of calories with no nutritional value. I could sit down in front of the t.v. and consume 1,000 calories in a half-hour. An hour later, I would be starving because the food didn’t provide the nutrition I needed. 

Missing the nutrition I needed to keep my body healthy, I became more exhausted, gained more weight, and experienced more stress. And eating foods that had calories, but no nutrition had longer term impacts on the body and aging. If you’re curious about what happened and why you can’t lose weight, check out my episodes, “What is Phlegm in Chinese Medicine” and “Lose the Impossible Weight in 5 Minutes a Day – Breaking up Phlegm.”

The moral of this story? Eat whole foods, especially if you are experiencing stress and anxiety. 

Meditate

Sometimes meditation is easier said than done, right? Especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and anxious, trying to quiet your mind feels impossible. 

Well, you’re right. It’s less easy to quiet your mind under stress and anxiety. If you need some ideas on how you can overcome the noise in your head, check out my episode, “Simple Meditation Techniques to Find the Rhythm of Meditation in 4K.”

Judgment says more about the person

And practice makes perfect. But, sometimes you can get in your own way with things like judgement. Need some thoughts on judgment, check out my blog, “Judgment says more the person than the situation.”

It might be hard to remember, but you came into this world with compassion. 

You know how to do compassion. So, when you’re trying to pull your head out of the fire, take a breath and remember it’s o.k. to have self-compassion.

And if you want some thoughts on how to find positivity, check out my blog, “It’s Time to Double Down on Positivity.”

Well, there it is, five steps you can take to help you get back into balance or stay in balance.

How I Found Spirituality Inside my Gallbladder

Life had gotten away from me, and I was on the wrong side of a healthy lifestyle. I knew how I got there. I had spent three years as a caregiver for two of the most influential and loved people in my family; my mother and sister. In between, I ran the gauntlet of running a small holistic medical practice, trying to save my show horse, and dealing with a plague of legal issues from a psycho estate executor.

Podcast: How I Found Spirituality Inside My Gallbladder

I don’t know how I stayed married. But, I did, and when I finally woke up, my mother, sister, and show horse were gone. I was a mess.

I was severely overweight. Funny how stress can bring out the eating bandits in some people – always sneaking another snack, another cookie, or a whole quart of ice cream. I was so out of shape that even walking was a chore. I had no flexibility and, I swear I had a nervous tic from all the stress.

ENDING UP IN THE EMERGENCY ROOM

Late one night, I ended up in the emergency room.

It was my gallbladder. I laid on the hospital bed with my husband at my side, grateful there was an end to the pain. Twenty minutes later, the doctor came back, uncomfortable and evasive. He tried to tell me he couldn’t do the surgery.

I’ve got a challenge for you. Describe a shade of blue without actually saying blue.

After the doctor left, my husband and I were able to translate his words into, “My gallbladder wasn’t life-threatening, so I had to talk with my gastroenterologist.” I wasn’t sure I was up for the wait. If you’ve had gallbladder pain, you know it’s a ten on the pain scale.

Not being ready to give up on the surgery, I wanted to negotiate for the surgery when the doctor came back.

CROSSROADS – WHO DO YOU MEET?

My doctor did come back, but he wasn’t alone. He introduced me to the Chief of Surgery. She stood behind him and didn’t say anything as she watched me.

crossroads

The first thing I noticed was she was Asian. I’m Asian. I grew up with a whole bunch of Asian women. I had already learned that when we said, “No,” that was pretty much a hard stop. I could feel the slippery hold I had on surgery slowly slipping away.

I half-listened to my doctor while silently sizing up the Chief of Surgery. My doctor was still trying to tell me he couldn’t do the surgery without using those words while the Chief of Surgery stood by the door saying nothing but using all those words. It was a hard no.

I sighed. Acknowledged defeat and nodded my head, “Fine,” I said.

With that one word, the Chief of Surgery was ready to leave the room comfortable knowing everything was right in the world. Everyone followed the rules, and the patient was going to do what was best for the patient. It didn’t feel like that.

LIFE CHANGING CONVERSATION

Only a week later and I was speaking with my gastroenterologist. I didn’t know it was going to be a life-changing conversation. We talked through the options. He mentioned one option multiple times. It was the option of doing nothing and trying to manage this with diet. Immediately after slipping that option in front of me, it was almost like he would take it back, stating he was willing to do the surgery, and my case justified surgery.

I thought “Doing nothing” must not be a well-received or popular option. But, he kept slipping it out there. So, why?

I asked him about that. That question permitted him to tell all he knew and had experienced with this surgery. And even with permission, he was cautious. He couldn’t guarantee the surgery would get rid of the pain. But it felt like he wanted to say the surgery wouldn’t get rid of the pain.

The thing is, I already knew gall bladder surgery seemed to create more problems for people later in life. I had seen it at my clinic. I’ll call it gall bladder surgeries gone bad, but they hadn’t really gone bad.

What the surgery seemed to do was allow the patient to continue eating whatever they wanted. All that food that had caused the inflammation they kept eating because the gallbladder which was like a nervous system had been removed. The nerves were no longer telling you that you had a problem. Then one day, the pain would show up again because the inflammation had gotten so severe it had finally expanded to another nervous system. The patient would start using Omeprazole or Prilosec and continue to eat everything their body was begging them to stop eating. The pain would break through again.

By this time, the damage was severe. I had never heard of this before. Gastroparesis, paralysis of the intestines, was common. Every bite promised excruciating pain. I was thinking about one of my clients who was a senior citizen and showed signs of dementia. The pain was brutal, but she had hit a place in life where she mentally could no longer change how she ate, and the medication wasn’t working. She never had a Chief of Surgery standing at the door to the crossroads of her life, warning her she had to make a conscious decision on how she would live the rest of her life.

DECISIONS & ADDICTIONS

I probably would have made a different decision if I didn’t have personal experience about the pain returning. But I knew it would. Maybe not right away. Perhaps late in life when my mental faculties could not make changes. Just that thought had me thinking it was kind of like creating you’re own private prison.

In clinic, I had started to discover the gallbladder was the canary in the coal mine. It was the early warning system that everything was not o.k. Without the early warning system, I wouldn’t feel the pain of inflammation creating damage in my digestive tract until it was too late.

Keeping my gallbladder was a big commitment. I was a little frightened by the decision. I mean, could I stop eating these foods. If I couldn’t change, what would that mean? I’m a holistic healthcare provider. If I couldn’t change my eating habits, it seemed to suggest that I’m a bit of a fraud, and I was destined for a life of being overweight, uncomfortable, and exhausted. So, for me, the decision was a little bit terrifying.

Sometimes, all the positives can’t outweigh the benefits of addiction, and I am addicted to food. Like every addiction out there, food comforted me when I was down, lonely, depressed, anxious. Food helped me avoid myself.

That three years of stress as a caregiver ended with a huge loss. I wanted to avoid what I was feeling. I wanted to crawl in a hole away from myself.

It was weird to me that these thoughts were going through my head. I don’t know about you, but when life takes me to a crossroads, I always think it’s God, it’s my higher power, it’s whoever is guiding my light through life, telling me I have to make a decision.

LIGHTING YOUR PATH

I’ve been lucky to have found my way to Chinese Medicine and from Chinese Medicine to find my way to Daoism.

You know how you can’t hear a message until you find the person who says it in just the right way?

That is what the philosophy of Daoism did for me. It talked to me in just the right way so I could understand self-compassion. Any addict can tell you, the person they berate the most is themself.

This journey to keep my gallbladder was going to have far reaching consequences on my life. In order to make it, I was going to need self-compassion. It wasn’t just my eating habits that were going to change. I was going to remove the one thing I was using to avoid my emotions which meant I would have to face the grief and the loss.

I think about some of the individuals I’ve had the honor of knowing. Addiction is what you use to avoid facing yourself, whether that addiction is work, exercise, alcohol, drugs, or money. Addictions help individuals avoid the really tough questions in life like, “Am I really a bad person?” “Is it always my fault?” “Why does it hurt so bad?” “Can I face the grief and loss?” “Why am I unhappy?”

Addictions are the wall built to avoid living. Addictions take a short-term behavior and change it into a chronic, life-long compulsion.

So, yeah, changing your addiction is not going to be easy.

In medical school, I had done my internship in an addiction recovery center. I learned it took an average of eight times for an individual to get over their addiction. Each effort to get over their addiction meant they were still standing. They hadn’t given up. Each time brought them a little closer with the pain and darkness they were trying to avoid. Like learning to swim, it’s easier to learn in steps instead of being thrown in the deep end without a life preserver. There is a high probability of failure in option two.

YOUR BODY/YOUR GUIDE

So, back to the gallbladder. The gallbladder was this canary in the coalmine. The early warning system told me I was at a crossroads and had to make a decision.

There are all sorts of guides and healers in this world. Yet, the one that is most relevant to you is your own body. It is your cathedral to the world. Every health issue is an opportunity to address part of your spirituality, and you don’t even have to know what part of your spirituality is addressed.

Yet, sometimes you may decide not to change some behavior to improve your life. In those situations, maybe spend some time meditating to allow yourself to make a conscious decision. Become your own Chief of Surgery and help yourself acknowledge the crossroads.

Your body might not be here just to make your life more convenient. Your body may be here to help you become the most amazing person you can be. That would make your body your number one fan and your most important spiritual guru.