Magnify Your View on Wellness: Take a Closer Look

Health is a relationship between you and your body.
-Unknown

Path

Today, the focus on health and wellness is everywhere.  There is no loss of trends in diets.  The Keto Diet, Paleo diet, Alkaline diet, Whole 30, Intermittent diet, Carb Cycling,  and more.  How the heck are you to comprehend which program is best for you?

Women’s Health Magazine lists 20 the top fitness trends that include everything from Yoga, to Functional Fitness Training, and Postrehabilitation Classes. Whew….that’s a lot.  If you are confused, I am not surprised.

I am asking you to set all of the above aside and instead to think about the many components of your daily life.  It is your routine and habits, which you do not consider that gives you a zing for life or provide a framework for health issues and a decline in your quality of life.

Contemplate the following:

Transportation
If you work outside of the home, how is your commute to work? Do you drive or use public transportation?  If you use public transportation, is it safe?  Are the wait areas enclosed and well lit? Are you exposed to second-hand smoke or other unhealthy carcinogens? Are the crosswalks safe or dangerous?

Do you drive a car to work? Do you carpool? How long is your commute?  Is your drive one hour or longer?  If so, take a moment and calculate the total amount of hours spent commuting per day, per week, per month, and annually.

Think about the commute.  Is it an easy-breezy ride or does your ride consist of high-volume traffic, horns, middle fingers, f-bombs, and weaving in and out of traffic?  How do you feel when you arrive at work and home? Over an extended period of time, this type of commute can negate the quality of your life. Yes, I know. The job may pay well. But ask yourself, what is the trade-off?

Workplace Environment
Where is your company located?  How many hours per week do you work?  Is the number greater than 50?  Been there done that, rolling my eyes.  Does your day include a lunch break? Where do you take your break?  Can you walk on your break? Does your company provide ergonomically designed chairs and workstations?  Is your workstation quiet or loud?

How is the air quality? Is the building well ventilated and are the filters cleaned regularly to prevent dust mold, and other pollutants?  What types of relationships do you have with your colleagues?  Does your company promote healthy living?

Are you required to lift heavy objects?  According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), back injuries account for nearly 20% of all injuries and illnesses in the workplace and cost the nation an estimated 20 to 50 billion dollars per year. If so, does your company provide or encourage the use of safety belts?

Do you drive a vehicle for a living?  If so, how many hours do you spend on the road daily?  The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limits the number of hours a driver can drive. The restrictions protect everyone on the road.  Driving sleepy or fatigued is estimated to cause up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year (CDC).

Is your job stressful? My point is that a stressful lifestyle may lead to unhealthy behaviors and adversely impact your overall health.  Inadequate coping skills and a lack of leisure time may lead to excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and/or drug usage.

Healthcare
Do you have health insurance?  Is it affordable? What does it include?  Can you afford it and do you seek annual doctor visits for the dentist, Obgyn (females), mammograms, colonoscopy (over age 40), and general practitioners?  Does your insurance include coverage for mental health counseling?  What is your attitude and what are your beliefs regarding you and your family’s health?

Neighborhood
Does your neighborhood provide sidewalks, clean and safe parks, playgrounds, lighted streets, and bike paths? What are your grocery stores like?  Do they sell a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables?
Facts:

  • The United States disproportionately spends less on social services and on health care.
  • Despite healthcare expenditures are projected to exceed 3 trillion dollars, health outcomes in the United States continue to fall behind other developed countries.
  • The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that long-term stress can harm your health. For more information, click here.

Emotional Hygiene (EH)
Most of us have childhood memories of injuries from trips and falls. While playing outside, we scraped a knee, suffered a broken arm, or cut a finger.  We cried a bit, moved on, and allowed our wounds to heal.  Somehow as adults, we unlearned the art of healing.  The consequence is baggage that we carry with us everyplace. The baggage is stuffed with fear, resentment, anger, hostility, guilt, and more.

The truth is we never learned how to care for our minds.  We do nothing until we have mental breakdowns and even then, the antidote is a prescription for medication. Barring severe psychological issues, the script is a pretty band-aid that covers the wound. The fact is, we need to probe deeper; we need to treat the mental infection. When this occurs, seeking professional help is a good starting point. Want to learn more? Listen to this TED Talk by Psychologist Dr. Guy Winch.


I have posted many questions because I want to help you to expand your thinking regarding what a healthy lifestyle means to you.  You can eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and exercise but other factors in your life may contribute to your health.  The determinants in your environment will impact your well-being.

So now what?

Is there something you want to change?  I hope that after reading this post, you’ve identified at least one area of your life to improve.  If everything is hunky-dory, congrats!  Still, save this post, because life is filled with peaks and valleys.

What can you do?

  1. Assess your current situation.
  2. Make a list and prioritize what is most important to you.
  3. Think baby steps.
  4. Schedule the doctor’s appointment that you’ve been putting off
  5. If the change is a new job, assess your skills. If you know what you want to do but lack the skills, determine where you can acquire additional knowledge.  In addition to your local college, most colleges offer online courses.  What are the costs and does your company offer tuition reimbursement? Explore if you can acquire new skills by volunteering.
  6. What are your current untapped skills and resources?  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  7. Maybe you’re not sure about your next career move but you are ready for a change.  MyNextMove.org is a great site to learn about careers. You can also take an assessment to help you to decide what field may be right for you.
  8. If it’s a lifestyle change, what are the specifics? Do you seek a relationship change, location change, or something else?
  9. Schedule an appointment with a therapist so you can work through your struggles.

My point here is to expand your thinking.  First to include yourself but then to add your family to the mix.  Our children observe us and learn from everything we do, just as we did from our parents.

I urge you to broaden your concept and understanding of health and wellness and take steps to improve your life.

Your health is what you make of it. Everything you do and think either adds to the vitality, energy, and spirit you possess or takes away from it.
Ann Wigmore

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Give. Yourself. Time.

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Freedman’s Mill Park, Gwinnett County Georgia. An old Gristmill along the Alcovy River.

After two shocking celebrity suicides within one week and several not-so-famous deaths about a month or so later, I began thinking more about mental health.

Mental health is a taboo that many would rather dance around than approach it head-on.  Naturally, pointing the finger at others is easier than examining one’s own mental health.

This post sat in my “draft” box for weeks over a month.  Ongoing edits, determining if the piece is worth publishing, and sprinkled with a little fear of what you will think (of me).  While pondering and editing, I learned of yet another suicide from a close friend, so I decided to go with it.

For anyone who has never experienced depression, it is probably easy to misunderstand the complexities of a mental health disorder. I have overheard comments from others who emphatically purport that suicide is a selfish act. However, I think the statement is selfish, troublesome, and demonstrates a lack of empathy and a lack of knowledge with respect to mental health and suicide. It’s proof that that people really don’t understand the scope of the problem.

People who suffer from depression or die from suicide are worthy of empathy, compassion, and love.

My thoughts about the people who took their lives are that,

They must have been emotionally and mentally broken. They must have experienced an insurmountable amount of agony. They must have been badly hurting. They must have felt helpless. Did the person have second thoughts? They must have believed their world would be better on the other side. They must have taken a considerable amount of time to make the decision. I cannot imagine their pain.

Like you, I have many questions. An extension of empathy for anyone dealing with depression led me to think long and hard. To consider if I had ever been in such a dark place. Did I ever experience depression? My immediate response was no.  No, because the face of depression did not look like me.

However, I did recall a hectic time in my life.  I worked full-time in midlevel management, I was a college student commuting an hour away from home and from work, sometimes twice a day (before and after work).

My multiple roles as wife to a supportive husband and mother to a pre-teen daughter were relationships that I cherished.

At times, my commitment to my family, career, and education was suffocating because I never came up for air.

Unfortunately, I could not see myself drowning with self-inflicted obligations. Perhaps I overcompensated for being away from home.

No one was aware of how overwhelmed I felt because I appeared to be just another resilient and strong black woman who was present to support, help, and encourage everyone else…but myself.  I know one when I see one.  My mother was one and her mother who nurtured 13 children was one.  My grandmother raised nine strong women.

Several of my friends are that black woman too.  I am not being dismissive of white women, I just can’t speak for one that I am not but I’m certain this post will resonate with my white and brown friends too.  Anyways I wholeheartedly bought into the stereotype of the Strong Black Women.

Some of us (black women) talk and jive amongst ourselves. We bond over personal war stories like we earned medals of honor. We toot-our-horns about how we persevered through the toughest of times without the likes of Prozac and other pills.

Looking back at that time, I did not want my family to sacrifice or suffer because of my personal and professional goals.  Today I know this way of thinking is severely flawed, and harmful to my mental health and well-being. I was teaching my daughter bad habitude.  Our home would have survived just fine with dusty floors, a pile or two of dirty laundry, and dust coated coffee tables. What was I thinking? Sigh!

Although it’s been over 25 years, I recall on one occasion while driving to a workshop in Trenton. I was cruising on the Garden State Parkway passing a large body of water in Raritan, NJ. Although I don’t recall being stressed, sad, depressed or angered by any particular event, for a moment, I impulsively thought to pull the car over and jump. Yessss, I said it!  Me. The happy one. At that moment, the word suicide never came to mind. I remember feeling tired. Not sleep deprived tired but simply tired from doing it all. Tired of guiltily doing too much.

During my drives to/from the university, on at least three occasions, similar and random thoughts flashed in mind.

While driving at a high rate of speed, simply turn the wheel in the right direction and I could rest. Sigh. 😦 

I have never shared this with anyone. If you know me, you are probably surprised. I was happy. I wasn’t using drugs or drinking. My marriage was intact. My child was healthy and doing okay. Life was good, or so I thought. I was employed and liked my job. I wasn’t dealing with financial problems.  I know know,

I was just doing too damned much.

Perhaps I was unaware of the fact that I was experiencing bouts of depression. Maybe I was ignorant to the face of depression.  Maybe it wasn’t depression.  Perhaps I was just overwhelmed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports, depression is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life.  So what did I experience?  More importantly, what if I had acted on my sudden impulse to do the unthinkable?  What about those who did and died?  I pose a few questions but have more. What I know is this.

I didn’t talk about my torrent feelings.

As a child, I learned from adults that you don’t talk about feeling overwhelmed.

I was raised to handle my business.

Don’t complain.

Don’t Wine.

Don’t Cry.

Put your big girl panties on and handle your shit.

Why didn’t I speak up about my feelings?  Probably from fear of looking weak. What’s bad about being weak?  Nothing!  It is a state of needing help.  Weak is fatigue, exhaustion, powerless, fragile, unsteady, and unstable.  None of which one should be ashamed of.

I never saw anyone in my family and tight-knit community ask for help.  You endure.  End of discussion. We must unlearn and unteach this behavior for ourselves and for everyone around us.  It is detrimental to our health.

Ages ago, I don’t know what I thought about depression. Because of the stigma associated with mental illness, I think it was treated privately with medication and whispered about.  Depression facts, according to (WHO) :

  • Worldwide more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression 
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.
  • Depressive episodes can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe.
  • As of March 2017, the number of people suffering from depression increased 18% from 2005-2015.
  • Depression is a common mental illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that people normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for 14 days or longer.
  • More women are affected by depression than men.

Although I did not suffer from a classic case of depression, I now realize that I still needed and should have sought professional help. I should have taken a break from my responsibilities.  I am thankful for my network of family and friends, who supported and encouraged me to follow my dream.  Without them, I would have never earned my degree.  In retrospect, I learned much from my experience.  The number one lesson I learned–Don’t ever stretch myself that thin again. Period.  The purpose of sharing my story is to help others.

I was in a hurry.  The rush compromised my quality of life and caused me to miss out on important time with my family.  In life, we are supposed to enjoy our journey.  Recently I saw an image that illustrated a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly.  The caption read, Give. Yourself. Time.

Now, I do just that.  I take my time and understand that, as long as I pace myself while working toward my goals, I will accomplish them when it’s meant to be. Romans 12:12 reminds us, Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 

Hurdles and hiccups serve a purpose and growth evolve through all struggles.  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4 ).

To prevent feeling overwhelmed, I carefully pick and choose my activities.  I think long and hard before taking on commitments, and when I do, it’s because I choose to NOT because I feel obligated to do so.  I don’t let anyone guilt me into doing anything I don’t want to do. Saying no becomes easier with frequency.  🙂  Saying yes to what you love is more fun.

The videos in this post are from a family excursion to a nearby park. The stroll through the park didn’t cost a dime but the hours spent with my husband and children were worth a million bucks.

Now I live a simpler and more purposeful life. My life isn’t perfect but it is a lot less complicated. Having large windows of downtime is wonderful.  I still have goals but the difference is, I take my time. I have quiet time.  I listen to the birds sing in the morning and the noise of the bugs at night.  My teen son participates in sports, but don’t look for me at the concession stand before, during, or after a game. I read more and stress less. Lastly, I shifted gears and have made a major career change.  I haven’t found my new career niche yet but in due time, I will.  Until that time, I am enjoying my journey and hope that you are enjoying yours.

Peace and love and remember to Give. Yourself. Time.

Smooches! 🙂

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Getting Help

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-8255

Youth

LGBTQ+

WHO Mental Health Management

Mental Health

National Institute of Mental Health

Mental Health Quiz

Center for Disease Control and Prevention


…Moving Mom To Georgia

Man I have to tell you guys, today is the mother of all days!!  It’s monumental!  For real!  

As I write this post, I’m ridding in the front seat of a rental with two very special passengers in the back seat.

My mother.  

My aunt Miriam.  

What makes this day super duper special is that we’re headed to the Ronald Regan International Airport in DC with these two loves.  

And… drum roll…. Ba bam!!   We’re flying to our new home in Grayson, GA!   Yes child!!  My mother is leaving South Jersey to become a Georgia Peach. This is another one of those pinch me moments.  My aunt and God-Mother decided to accompany my mother with the big move and also to hang out with us for a bit.  Auntie will also have the opportunity to see another sister, who moved to Georgia two months ago. 🙂 We’ve got a little reunion going on. Heeey!  They’re all in their 80’s!  Lord knows, our family has been blessed. 

I’m going to do my best to show auntie the best time ever. For selfish reasons, I also want her to make the move permanently.  She’s retired, is gracefully aging, so living closer to family and a warmer climate will be an added perk. She can spend more time having fun and less time managing the demands of a home.  

When hubby and I decided to move, we gave my mother the option to move with us now or to move later.  She pondered for a brief time and opted to move sooner. NEVER in a million years did I think she would leave the garden state, especially with two of her sisters still living there.  

I think the deciding factor was losing her sister and partner and crime, Annie last year.  My mother, aunts Annie, Miriam and Barbara did everything together and I mean everything. Last July Annie suddenly died.  The family was heart-broken.  The spunkiest of the crew, often thought of as the Golden Girls, left us and we didn’t get to say good-bye.  

Thankfully we have a plethora and a lifetime of fond memories to keep our hearts full of joy and laughter.

Anyways, I think Annie’s passing made mother’s decision easier. 

If you follow my blog, you know that last month hubby and I, along with our son made the big move to Georgia. We waited to move mom because we wanted to get her bedroom and the guest room in order.

Later tonight we arrive home. They are in for a nice surprise!  :). I can’t wait for them to see their rooms. Mom’s room, which is more like a suite, has a small walk-in closet and her own bathroom, is located on the first floor. No more steps for her!! Her bed, which we moved from Jersey, is croweded with all of her favorite stuffed animals and dolls.  Yay!  She no longer has to wait for her teenaged grandson to finish primping in the bathroom. Heeey!!  I’m snappin’ my fingers on this one!  

Auntie’s room also has a private bathroom and a small walk-in closet.  We bought a beautiful new bed and decorated the room with soft-gray’s and cream colors. Hanging word art reads, You are loved, and a lucky succulent plant gives her private bathroom a spa-like feeling.  My heart.  We hope that she loves it so much, that she will want to move permanently.   Cross your fingers for us. Pretty please!!  

I don’t make light of this move for my mother because changing environments is difficult for most people. However, moving in your 80’s to an unfamiliar place has to be more difficult and that is why we let her make the choice.  

She is not a people person nor does she like traveling or eating in restaurants, all of which makes this move significant. But– she’s going willinging, so we’re trying to make the move as pleasaureable as possible.  Although her tough exterior and stern disposition won’t permit her to admit that she is nervous, we know that flying with her sister makes the transition less taxing.  

The last time the sisters boarded an airplane was about five years ago for a siblings going home service.  I’m delighted that this trip is for more plesaureable reasons.  

We are a little over two hours from the airport and the chatter front the backseat is all good.  :).  I want to join in on the conversation, so I’ll end this post now and focus on this rare occasion.  :). 

Smooches!!


Mental Health Matters

Earlier today I read the heart wrenching story about 19 year-old Madison Holleran.   Less than four days ago, the University of Pennsylvania student committed suicide.  She wrote a note to her parents, left them gifts, and jumped to her death from a Center City parking garage.

By all accounts Madison had everything to live for.  A freshman track star, who finished her first semester with 3.5 GPA respectfully.  Mail Online quoted her parents as saying, “her sadness stemmed from the strains the student found herself under since going to college.”    Her parents suggested therapy and even offered to help her transfer to another college, but after the holiday break, she return to Philadelphia.

Madison isn’t my daughter, but the death of any child lies heavy on my heart. I teared thinking about Madison’s last moments of life.  My daughter is 24-year-old.  The thought of her living out what must be the last and most agonizing moments of her life sends chills down my spine.

In 2007, suicide  was the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 34,598 deaths.


In 2007, suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24
. Of every 100,000 young people in each age group, the following number died by suicide:

  • Children ages 10 to 14 — 0.9 per 100,000
  • Adolescents ages 15 to 19 — 6.9 per 100,000
  • Young adults ages 20 to 24 — 12.7 per 100,000

 National Institute of Mental Health (NHM)

Much emphasis is placed on outer beauty and physical fitness.  We see a beautiful woman or handsome man with a great physique– They are friendly, out going, and seem to have it all.  We assess (really judge) them to be successful or make positive assumptions about them.  This is so wrong!

A warm smile could be a mask or smoke screen.  The warm smile could be an indicator of internal pain, sadness, depression, or something else. The photos of Madison hardly projects the face of depression or does it?  As my friend JH says, “Honey, all that glitters ain’t gold!”

My senior year of high school was one of the most difficult years of my life.  The death of my father and the ratchet conflict with my mother gave me stomach ulcers and bald spots.  I walked around school smiling like my life was a fairy tale.  I didn’t tell anyone, not even my closest confident.  I kept my anger, sadness, and frustration in until it slowly infected by body, but thankfully not my mind.  I was lucky, Madison was not.  How sad.

Fitness junkies like me make the time for a long or short run, an hour or more at the gym, or an hour of CrossFit.  But how many of us, including those who don’t work out, make the time to evaluate if our mental health is in a good place?

As parents, how many of us know the signs of depression and can recognize them in our own children?  Will you be honest with yourself or will you surround yourself with denial with the hopes that the situation will get better?

Suicide statistics are astounding. I encourage everyone to learn more about suicide risk factors, the signs, prevention, and how to seek help.

Every life is precious. RIP Madison Holleran

If you are in a crisis and need help right away:

Call this toll-free number, available 24 hours a day, every day: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You will reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a service available to anyone. You may call for yourself or for someone you care about. All calls are confidential.

ADDITIONAL READING

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

National Institute of Mental Health

American Foundation For Suicide Prevention

Bringing Teens Into the Conversation About Suicide Prevention


Prepping For My New Challenge

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Meet Stan!

Life is precious and it is short.  The thought of aging and having to sit and ponder over the  What ifs  in my life just doesn’t sit well with me.

Meet my new best friend, Stan.  I’m embarking on a new personal and physical challenge that will require me to rely heavily on him.

I am terrified, but cannot resist this challenge. My heart races and goose bumps cover my body every time I think about it, but I refuse to run away or hide.  My mind and my heart screams, “Go for it!”  So I am.  Stayed tuned!

Enjoy this beautiful fall day!


Today’s WOD

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” 

         -Henry Ford

Warm Up:     Coaches Choice (Which involved 600M of running & more)

Mobility:       6 Min

WOD:             “Row Gone Really Bad”

7 RDS   1 Min AMRAP of Each:

Cal Row + Air Squats 1 Min Rest In Between Each Round

Then Do:

50 DU’s or Jump Tucks
12 Push Press (75/55)
50 ABMAT Sit Ups
40 DU’s or Jump Tucks
15 Push Press (75/55)
30 DU’s or Jump Tucks
9 Push Press (75/55)
30 ABMAT Sit Ups

If you stick with CrossFit long enough, you will make discoveries about yourself.  When hubby texted me the WOD this morning, I didn’t know if I should thank him or fuss. Why? Because I had all day to think about my afternoon challenge.

I looked at the WOD and fell out laughing.  I sat at my desk and loudly repeated, “Really?  OMG!  Really?” and continued laughing aloud.  My colleague in the next office must have thought I lost my mind, but I wasn’t ready for this one.

As confident as I am about my abilities, even I had doubts about this WOD.  We all tend to do this at one time or another, which is so bad.  We mentally count ourselves out before we even give it a try.

As I mentally prepped for the afternoon, I knew one fact…  I needed to drink some coffee before this WOD.  Yeah, I know… this wasn’t the best option, but at 2:45 p.m., I saw no other options.

The coffee helped… the caffeine kicked in just in time for the 7 rounds of rowing and air squats.

I focused.

I breathed.

I finished!!!!!

Sweet Dreams.