It’s happening again! The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting longer. If you had the Daylight Savings time change on November 7th, suddenly it feels like it’s dark all the time!
The shorter days and longer nights can feel a bit depressing, especially if rain or snow is coming. Here are four things you can do to help overcome the emotional slump with the darker days of Fall Daylight Savings time.
Change out some of your lights to full-spectrum lighting.
An easy fix is changing lighting. Maybe, changing out a few of your light bulbs might be enough to get you through the winter. Pick high-activity areas like the kitchen, bathroom, and office.
Have you noticed you can get two different types of lights; full-spectrum or daylight LED bulbs? Are full-spectrum and daylight LED bulbs the same thing? Nope, they are two different types of lighting.
Full-spectrum bulbs represent the entire visible spectrum of light and are considered the same as the sun. The bulbs are measured by CRI (color rendering index) that goes from 0-100. Look for bulbs rated 90 are greater.
Daylight bulbs refer to the color of the lighting or color temperature. These bulbs are measured in Kelvins. The warmer lights are 2,700-3,000K. While cooler lights, referred to as daylight, are 5,000-6,500K.
The better option when dealing with the dark day doldrums are full-spectrum lights. Even though full-spectrum bulbs are not considered “light-box” therapy used in cases of S.A.D., the bulbs can be enough for some people.
Full-spectrum light bulbs not enough? Try using light-box therapy.
For some people, a few full-spectrum bulbs are not going to be enough. If you are experiencing S.A.D. you may want to talk to your healthcare provider about using a light box.
What is different about light boxes? Well, first, they are really bright, probably about 20 times brighter than an ordinary light bulb. They filter out all the UV lighting making them safer to use. The person sits in front of the light box for 30-40 minutes every day.
Kicking up the Brain’s Happy Juice – Endorphins
Your mood is going to color your day. Well, your brain’s chemicals heighten your mood. So, why don’t you try kicking up those chemicals which cause you to feel good, endorphins?
Exercise is the best way to pump a large dose of endorphins into the brain. But, if exercise isn’t your thing and eating is, well try spicy foods or dark chocolate. Both of these options have research that suggests they can pick up the endorphin level in the body.
Social Interaction and Laughter to Bump Daylight Savings
Sure, you’re social distancing, and it may start to feel like you’re recreating the isolated family clans of the Old West, but there are still ways to find your tribe and socialize.
In the blog, “Coping with Loneliness: How to Not Face Your Battles on Your Own,” I talk about some of the neat things happening in technology that help you create your tribe.
If you already have a tribe and want to find a way to gather and still stay safe, try group-watching online movies. Comedies can be an excellent opportunity to share time and laugh.
The shortest days of the year reduce light, but don’t reduce activity. Today your life continues at the same hectic pace it had in summer. Instead of letting the darker days and longer nights leave you feeling listless, try these simple adjustments.
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?
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.
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.
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
Overcome 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.
Participate 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.
Committing to health changes and giving up on them in a couple of months can be discouraging. You want to improve your health, but find the burden of the changes overwhelming your life. New Year’s resolutions and diets can fall into this category. Maybe you’re trying to do too much at once and if you can find a way to practice patience and going “small” you might find greater success.
“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 Coca-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 heroin substitute for a reason. But, giving up Coca-cola was a clear step not combined with 15 other changes. 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. Your patience may allow you to integrate the changes making them a new daily habit.
What happens a year from now? You 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 Coca-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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.