5 tips for sanity in the summer of 2020

So here I am, blogging in my home away from home in an attempt to escape the Jones Fire. One of my favorite months (August) is now entwined with anxiety. Last summer was just as unnerving. I just love living in a forested, mountainous region, but I am a city-girl after all, having been born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. While I love my new community, I have noticed that I am definitely much more uneasy than the locals when it comes to forces of nature. That’s just a fact, whether it is a family of bears at my front door, a wildfire, or the random pine tree dropping some of its branches on my roof. Furthermore, as I sit here and blog so soon after having evacuated from my home, I can’t help but wonder…what is wrong with me? Shouldn’t I be focused on something else?

This article is one attempt to stay sane amidst this pandemic and the start of wildfire season. Below, I will share with you 5 tips for wellness and sanity – things that I practice every day. I will lay out each tip in the order in which I do them.

  • 1) Immediately upon waking up I remain still and see what dreams I recall. If nothing is clearly recalled, I notice how I feel. I don’t care if I wake up at 8am or sadly, much much earlier as a result of worry. Why? Dreams or the feeling they give off can tell me a lot with regard to what I should focus on that day. For example, did I wake up with a sense of dread and feel compelled to pack or recheck my ‘go-bag’? If yes, then I do it! Did I wake up to recall a seemingly random scenario? If so, I pay attention. You see, dreams can provide precognitive elements – that’s a glimpse of a future event. So many people (both those in the United States and the Middle East) recalled dream predictions of 9/11, and other disasters. So when I wake up in the middle of the night or the morning, I take notice. It is okay to act on information from dreams. They just might be helping me out!
  • 2) Once awake and moving about, I list 10 things I am grateful for. Sometimes, the list doesn’t change much from day-to-day. That’s alright. The point is that I take a minute or two to set this tone. I like to do this while I enjoy my morning tea. The positivity and humility carry me throughout the day ahead. I can easily return to those thoughts of life’s simple blessings whenever I need to.
  • 3) I’m told over and over that I am what I eat, so I start the day with a healthy boost. I have both a juicer and a Vitamix, but that isn’t necessary. One appliance will do. This month I have turned toward my Vitamix almost daily. I toss in organic broccoli, cauliflower, dark leafy greens, and berries. Once blended, I sip my vegetables while knowing that I have given myself a healthy phytonutrient blast. If I eat something that’s not so healthy later that day, I don’t feel so bad about it. Important side note: if you can afford organic fruits and vegetables, it’s worth it. I read a lot about food politics, but I won’t get into that here. Trust me, buying organic is worth your money!
  • 4) A period dedicated to some form of meditation acts as a reset when the day becomes hectic or unmanageable. Before diving into work or leaving the house, add a 10 to 15 minute time block to the calendar. This makes it more likely to happen. I’m sure you’ve noticed that as well. The e-calendar on my smart phone is a placeholder for wellness-related activities, not just appointments and tasks. Honor this time that is set for self-care. For support, I sometimes use an app while other times I choose walking meditation or sit down for conscious breathing time. This tip alone does wonders for our physiology, supporting the parasympathetic nervous system (that’s ‘the brakes’ or the part that supports ‘rest and digest’). I consider any form of meditation a foundation healthcare practice. Switch out the afternoon coffee break for a meditation break. You’ll get a much healthier level of support to finish out the workday.
  • 5) It’s blazing hot outside, so to finish my day I head outdoors around sundown. During that time, I water the garden, toss around the tennis ball with my Border Collie, or go for a neighborhood stroll. This kind of gentle movement and down time allows me to reflect and process the day behind me. Now that it’s evening time, I can return to step 2 if I need to. There’s no harm in that.

I hope you use these 5 tips as you move forward into this stressful fire season alongside the pandemic. Everyone, everywhere, can use a little help from time to time. I am happy that I shared some of the activities and behaviors that have helped me move toward a heathy lifestyle. Wishing you and your loved ones wellness, safety, and good fortune, from California.

 

Cali Love,

Dr. Kim

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self-care

Happy new year to you all! This month’s article is not about resolutions, but about something we should be doing regularly (and probably should have been doing all along): that is self-care of the mind, body, emotions and spirit. It’s never too late to start – anytime is a good time. How about now?

Sure, it’s nice to take a steamy bubble bath, or buy something nice for ourself when we can afford it, even indulge in a sweet treat, or get a mani-pedi…you name it. However, caring for the self goes much deeper. I was exposed to this concept around 1999 or 2000 after having worked in the child abuse prevention and trauma field for a brief period of time. For the last 20 years, I have had a self-care regimen of some kind. Still, I have been treated for vicarious traumatization (VT) and secondary traumatic stress (STS)/compassion fatigue (CF) due to all the exposures in my field and my particular work as a trauma therapist over the years, in addition to my own history. Life can be complicated and we can be complicated creatures. No one self-care routine is best. They can differ drastically from individual to individual. One routine may feel sufficient for months, then suddenly more support may be needed in one or more areas. A lot of what professionals teach regarding self-care, we can learn on our own with some research and thoughtful consideration. If you are experiences symptoms of VT, STS/CF, consult with a professional – that is a licensed psychologist or licensed psychotherapist specializing in trauma. After all, it is an opportunity to have another offer evaluation, new ideas and emotional support through a heightened self-care process.

Sometimes, self-care is divided up into physical, mental, emotional, spiritual categories, which is alright, but I prefer to look at things differently because one action, or domain, can support each of these categories.

One major self-care domain is Time in Nature. Getting regular time in the great outdoors and away from busy city life can do wonders for our nervous system and for calming theIMG-4846 mind and the emotions. Taking in fresh air while surrounded by plants and trees is a gift in itself. We can connect spiritually in nature as well. After all, everything is alive. Some people I know go camping (sleeping on the ground directly) every season while others dedicate a weekend day to beach walks, forest trail running or engaging in the practice known as Earthing. Earthing, sometimes also referred to as Grounding, is basically walking barefoot on dirt or grass (not on concrete) for example, like our ancestors did. The last time I did this, it was 45 degrees outside. My feet felt the chill of the ground, but I was bundled up everywhere else, so I was fine. The practice of Earthing is recommended in order to absorb some earth energy, as the planet is negatively charged. IMG-4842The build up of positively charged free radicals throughout the day can be tamed through Earthing due to it’s antioxidant effect. It’s an anti-inflammatory technique! Instead of coffee, try 15 minutes of Earthing in the afternoon as a caffeine substituting self-experiment for relieving grogginess. If getting your shoes off is impossible, do not give up – do it with bare hands instead.

Another major domain in my life is Organic Whole Food, Plant-based Eating. I used to complain (a lot) that organic purchases were too expensive, and that I didn’t have time to cook. Then I had a wake-up call teaching me that buying cheap food on the fly can lead to expensive medical treatments needed to correct a problem I encouraged through my behavior and choices. The inflammatory garbage I was putting in my mouth most days came with a cost. Basically, it’s pay now or pay later with a potentially bigger cost. This decade, it is even more critical since hundreds of new chemicals are being introduced into the environment each year. We know (for years now actually) that babies are born with toxins in their umbilical cord blood. Pregnant mothers’ blood carries many toxic chemicals too, of course. This develops by way of environmental exposures, one being the pesticides in processed and conventional foods. Thinking more about costs, some organic choices are very affordable, such as bulk beans, grains, and even certain fruits and vegetables are similarly priced to conventional. If it’s possible to grocery shop with a friend or family member with similar interests, the experience can be educational, curious, and maybe even fun. Eating as clean as possible offers benefits not just for physical health, but mental and emotional health as well. It’s true – consuming organic foods can be a support for optimal mental and emotional functioning.

An additional major domain is what I’ll label as Cleaning. Our entire being –mind, body, emotions, spirit – can benefit from regular cleaning. By cleaning, I mean committing to actions that invoke reflection, gratitude, clarity, protection, and especially release. Here are some examples:

Unstructured, reflective journaling,

Warm epsom and Celtic sea salt baths,

Writing gratitude lists (at least 10 things I am grateful for),

Mindfulness practices including meditation and guided imagery,

Energetic services such as Reiki or acupuncture,

Tracking dreams and looking for patterns and themes,

Adopting a short home-based energy medicine routine (see November 2019 article),

Getting lost in a craft such as knitting, painting, or coloring mandalas.

That’s only eight examples, but naturally, there are dozens and dozens of ways to clean. I clean daily-to-weekly. How about you?

Most of the ideas I have shared here can be combined in a variety of ways and many of them support more than just one aspect of ourselves. What you see here is by no means an exhaustive list, so add to it, and please share your ideas with me. Remember, a solid self-care routine can be done at-home and cost nothing, or if you have extra funds, hiring a service provider can be very nice.

Everyone wants their personal compass pointed in the direction of good health, happiness, meaning and connection. The power to make changes lies within each one of us. There is no rule saying that changes must be drastic or come all at once. Every small step we make in the right direction for our lives and the lives of our loved ones is well worth it in my book. May this new year bring all good things your way!

 

2020 blessings to you and yours,

Kim

#selfcare

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