What do you do?

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Such a simple question.  Such a complicated answer.  Especially when you are not working…full-time.

For an extended period of time—well over two years—I was long-term unemployed, not working and actively looking for work.  Any kind of work.  Any kind of full-time, part-time, any kind of work. I dreaded when I met someone new and they asked me that simple little question. How can such a simple question stop a grown woman dead in her tracks?  I did anything I could to shift and turn the conversation to a more appealing and interesting topic.

Why?  Because people look at you oddly.  They don’t think they do.  Nor do I think they think they do.  I think they also don’t intend to do what they do. It’s not pity.  It’s just a look.  The look.  Like oh.

And heaven forbid they discover you’ve got degrees plus a lot of work experience.  There it is.  The look.  Again.  Like oh.

I think part of it comes from being the overly sensitive recipient of this question and feeling judged because you can’t make it happen (even though it is totally out of your control – it would really be nice if life were like a situation comedy and you could wiggle your nose or snap your fingers and make someone hire you).  Not to mention the media falsely promoting that most unemployed workers are lazy, uneducated, seeking benefits (yeah, you’ll get rich very quickly on unemployment income – NOT) or simply not looking for work.  Try telling that to my college educated, degreed and experienced friends who were looking for work right along with me.  Our little band of professional but long-term unemployed misfits trying to make our way through a maze of job searches, multiple resume revisions, career fairs, no responses to automated resume submissions, applying for multiple jobs to only receive an occasional call for an actual interview, the “we’re very impressed with your skills and qualifications but we selected another candidate” rejection letters, etc.  I personally have a sneaky suspicion, and my gut feeling is, that a huge percentage of the currently unemployed and long-term unemployed are college educated, experienced workers who actually want and desire to work…but what do I know?

The question is “What do you do?”  I didn’t like answering that question.  But I didn’t lie.  I met it full on.  I cannot say that I embraced it.  Rather I learned how to respond to it.  Like my job search took me a very long time, it took me quite some time to learn how to respond to this simple question.  My responses ranged from head down, eyes randomly staring off into space while mumbling:

  • I lost my job due to downsizing.
  • I’m not working at the moment.
  • I’m currently transitioning and between jobs.
  • I’m a consultant (I said this a lot, even when a freelance project had ended weeks ago and I was hanging around while hoping and waiting on the next project to appear).
  • I’m a consultant (I said this a lot, when I was working various part-time odds and ends jobs just to keep myself busy and earn a few coins).
  • I’m a substitute teacher (a job I was eager to do but once I started it realized I did not enjoy it, nor welcome it, and it only made me appreciate real teachers even more).

The saying is “Never let them see you sweat”.  So I didn’t.  But in my head, this was me most of the time because I was floating down some river without a paddle and not knowing how to get off or what to do.  Although I had some of the best laid plans (I’m a girl who always has a plan and needs to be busy) they never worked the way I wanted and this pretty much summed up my life the entire time I was looking for work:

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Finally I learned to just be me.  Yes, my circumstances and situation had changed (um, quite drastically and significantly!).  However, I—the core and the essence of me—had not changed.  I returned to me which meant I began to lift my head high and look people in the eye as I adopted a more proactive stance with my response to this question:

  • I’m actively looking for work (I purposely kept it vague and didn’t say I wasn’t working or between jobs).  My background is in healthcare, hospital and consulting firms.  Please do keep me in mind if you hear of anyone that is hiring? Or I would say “Sure, I would love to talk with your friend or neighbor or cousin or hair stylist or your sister’s boyfriend or whomever it is that you want me to talk to” in response to them saying oh, I think so and so might be able to help you.
  • I’m actively looking for work and I’m interested in working for a non-profit organization, preferably in or related to healthcare, and the opportunity to work with and help people.

I also finally learned that sometimes “What do you do?” is really just a very simple and innocent question about what you do.  People you’ve just met genuinely want to know more about you and that is simply their motivation behind asking it.  No harm, no foul.  Yikes!  I had to stop being hypersensitive, paranoid and feeling judged by this simple little question.

Another lesson learned is that networking comes in all forms.  The typical professional contacts.  The family contacts.  The friend contacts.  The extended friend and family contacts.  The newly met people contacts.  It really boils down to relationship building.  Whether they are current or new contacts. Whether they are in your professional circle or not. You never know who knows whom and what kind of leads or potential conversations it can turn into.  I learned that instead of shrinking back while shutting down emotionally and closing myself off that I needed to open myself up and respond to this question with my normal grace and confidence knowing that the right opportunity would come my way as an answer to my numerous prayers for a j-o-b.

I learned that the label of unemployment is unfathomable.  It binds you up in what feels like the bottom of the bottom of the pit.  Then to have to try to answer a question to explain the what, the why, etc. to people you’ve just met who don’t know anything remotely about you or your circumstance.  And get the look.  Like oh.  I can’t even…

I also learned that this simple four word question is one of the most humbling and gut wrenching questions anyone can ask you when you are unemployed.  It kicks you….deep in your soul.  It brings you to your knees.  It pierces you like a knife through your heart. Basically, it slays you.  It wrecks you.  It tears you apart and beats you down.  Because you are consumed with working and it is yet another in-your-face reminder that sadly you are not.

It took me a while to realize it wasn’t always about me trying to stay happy while sometimes feeling like such a Debbie Downer regarding my situation, hoping to speed things up so I could provide a “real” answer to the question, or try to pinpoint how I could transform or reposition myself and my skills to transition into something new (or even figure out what it was that I wanted to transition into).

I am happy to say I’m working now – full-time.  It was a long time coming but well worth the wait while believing I Thessalonians 5:16-18.  God is still in the business of answering prayers…and it continues to happen on His time. Not yours.  He heard my every prayer, saw my every tear, felt my despair (and desperation).  Just as He hears, sees and feels yours too.

If you are currently looking for work, I hope you learn this lesson much more quickly than I did.  I want to encourage you!!!  Stay strong.  Don’t let this question, these four little words, get you down.  Hold onto faith.  Keep praying. Keep believing.

Your day is coming and in the meantime you too are able to look the person in the eye, answer the question with grace, confidence and your head held high.  I hope your day comes real soon and you are blessed with a great job!

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.
“They are plans for good
and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 
12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 
13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 
14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord.
“I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes.
I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you
and will bring you home again to your own land.”  
~ Jeremiah 29:11-14 (NLT)

Living a Better Life

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1.  Always begin your day with prayer.  Always end your day with a prayer of gratitude.

2.  Be flexible—in body and in mind.

3.  Eat healthier.

4.  Choose to find joy in everyday life.

5.  Daily find something to laugh at.

6.  Stay connected to the people you love.

7.  Give freely—of yourself, time, talent, and resources.  To church, charity or other worthy causes.

8.  Live with integrity—follow through and do what you say.

9.  Stop worrying about things you can’t control.

10.  Constantly find new ways to challenge yourself.

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Burger Alternatives for the 4th

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Wow, the Fourth of July really snuck up on me this year!  I don’t even know where the month of June went…it moved so quickly.

I love summer and the arrival of Independence Day always signals to me that it is almost halfway over.  It is a great day to celebrate, relax and enjoy good eats and lots of fun with good peeps…our family and friends.

There is nothing like a great decadent burger, barbecued ribs, fresh corn, coleslaw, broccoli salad, baked beans and all the other summer treats and goodies!  This year I’m fixing barbecued chicken and, instead of beef or turkey burgers, I am making my go-to black bean burger.  I used to purchase the frozen veggie burger products sold by two popular big name companies. Although I felt they were healthy, I began looking at their ingredient list and about two years ago I set out to make my own veggie burgers as a healthier and more flavorful alternative.

This recipe for Spicy Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers with Avocado Cilantro Crema over at The Ambitious Kitchen is soooo gooood and soooo flavorful!  It has become a staple in my cooking rotation.

I have experimented with a lot of homemade veggie burgers and find I don’t miss the former frozen products I used to purchase.  I think I still have a box or two in my freezer which I can use in a pinch but making them homemade I find they are much more flavorful, hearty and devoid of stuff I can’t pronounce (much less know what it is).

All you really need is a few simple components to make a great veggie burger: a grain (i.e., brown rice, quinoa, breadcrumbs), some veggies (e.g., carrots, sun-dried tomato, mushrooms, any color bell pepper, corn, zucchini, sweet potato, spinach, jalapeno, etc.), flavor from good seasonings, and if you want to add beans use any kind (e.g., black beans, chickpeas, white beans, lentils, kidney beans, etc.).  Mix ingredients, shape into patties, then pan fry, broil/grill or bake and top with your favorite burger ingredients.

If you’re looking for a burger alternative for the Fourth of July to help round out your menu, consider making a veggie burger (e.g., Portobello, mushroom, chickpea patties/Falafel, lentil burgers, etc.) or check out my favorite Spicy Sweet Potato Black Bean Burger here:

http://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/2013/08/spicy-sweet-potato-black-bean-burgers-with-avocado-cilantro-crema-sprouts/

Now, to decide if I want to make a peach cobbler or a batch of chocolate chip cookies for dessert?

Whether you are grilling, going to a barbecue, hosting a picnic or hanging out at a family reunion remember the reason for the Fourth.

Enjoy the fireworks and have a safe and Happy Fourth!

4th of July 2014

More Reasons to Get Your Sweat On

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I wish I could say that I’m a skinny Minnie.  I’m not.  However, I am always looking at healthy ways to stay strong and lose some lbs.

Estrogen is a hormone that travels through our bloodstream and targets specific tissue types.  The breast and uterus are specific targets of estrogen which means increased estrogen plays a significant role in risk factors for breast cancer and uterine cancer.  Without getting too technical, estrogen—which plays a beneficial and important role in the body—may also be harmful by causing estrogen-induced cellular changes potentially leading to DNA damage (mutation) leading to an increased chance of developing breast or uterine cancer.

While there are numerous factors that cause increased risk of breast cancer (e.g., genetic risk factors, dense breast tissue, birth control pills, family history, etc.), an often overlooked and rarely discussed potential risk factor is being overweight, particularly in postmenopausal women. Researchers are still investigating how weight potentially impacts breast and other types of cancer. Current studies indicate that being overweight causes increased blood glucose levels (insulin) which have been associated with certain cancer types. Additionally, postmenopausal women may have increased fat tissue which causes increased estrogen production since the ovaries no longer produce estrogen after menopause.

View an infographic on the link between obesity and cancer from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO):  http://www.cancer.net/sites/cancer.net/files/obesity_infographic.pdf

According to the Women’s Health Initiative Cohort Study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association “Women who engage in regular exercise have been shown to have a reduced risk of breast cancer.” Physical activity has also been shown to be effective at reducing mortality in breast cancer survivors.

Overweight as a risk factor for breast cancer?  Yes.  Regardless of gender, overweight also impacts the potential risk for the development of certain cancers in men, as well as other forms of cancer in women, as depicted in the ASCO infographic.  Yet another reason to sweat whether female or male.

Why is it everything always comes back to exercise?  Because exercise is the secret to good health.  We sit too much at work, at home, at restaurants, at movies, at baseball games and don’t get enough play and movement.

Not only does exercise help balance estrogen and testosterone levels, it also reduces cortisol, helps stabilize glucose levels, enhances immunity and aids with risk of infection.  Exercise increases our physical well-being while improving our cardiovascular and respiratory function.  It makes you feel good!

Some studies show that postmenopausal woman, who perform aerobic exercise four hours per week, can decrease breast cancer risk by 15 to 20 percent. Even exercising as little as one hour per week can decrease risk (certainly we can give up one to four hours a week!).  These benefits are even greater in premenopausal women.

Now that summer is here, grab a pair of sneakers, a pedometer/Fitbit, put a smile on your face and get to walking!  Strive to get those recommended 10,000 steps per day (Note:  A mile is roughly 2,000 steps).  Although 10,000 steps sounds like an awful lot it is only about 5 miles (depending on your stride).   Start by setting a goal to reach 2,000 steps per day, then 4,000 steps per day, then 5,000 steps per day, then 6,000 steps per day.  Or set a weekly goal.  Walk in your neighborhood, on the treadmill, at work on your lunch break, after work, at the gym, during commercial breaks, in the park, etc.  Or pop in a walking DVD or watch an app and walk at home.  Everyone can walk.

Try one of these links to get started:

14 Walking Workouts to Burn Fat and Boost Energy:
http://www.prevention.com/fitness/fitness-tips/14-walking-workouts-burn-fat-and-boost-energy 

How Do I Start Walking for Exercise:
http://www.sharecare.com/health/walking/how-start-walking-for-exercise

Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices (Steps) Program:
https://www.walgreens.com/steps/stepslanding.jsp

If walking isn’t your thing, play tennis, racquetball, basketball.  Go swimming. Lift.  Cross Fit.  Do whatever it is that you enjoy.

Move it.  Log it.  Do it.

5 Simple Ways to Be Good to Yourself

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Sometimes we just need to take a little time to treat and make ourselves happy. Below are five simple things you can do in the privacy of your home to get your happy on and just be good to yourself.

1.  Give yourself a scalp massage.  Set a timer for five minutes, begin the massage and feel the tension start to melt away. Massage your scalp starting at your forehead and working back to the base of your skull or vice versa.  Then fan out to the temple area and behind your ears to the back of your head.  Scalp massage stimulates the natural oils and circulation to your scalp, feels marvelous and aids in hair growth and sheen.  If you like, apply a little jojoba or almond oil to your fingertips before you begin.  A little essential oil added to your jojoba or almond oil offers a nice aromatherapy pick-me up.

2.  Go old school.  Create a playlist or pull out your favorite tunes that remind you of good times and great memories. It could be music from your high school days, memories of hanging with the bestie, music from your family reunion. Whatever it is that makes you happy and think of positive memories or events. Select the music, turn up the volume and shake your groove thing!

3.  Grab a bouquet.  Whether you buy it from the store or pick it from your garden, a bouquet of flowers (or a single flower) nurtures the soul and brings a bit of nature inside.  Use a pretty vase and sit the bouquet on your kitchen counter, your bathtub, your bedroom nightstand or your desk at work.  Place it where you will see and admire the beauty of God’s creation.  Mix it up and buy flowers you don’t normally purchase.  Savor the beauty and fragrance of the bouquet!

4.  Slather on some body butter.  Take a moment to pamper yourself outside of the daily quick and rushed application of lotion following the morning shower. Whether its a shea butter or a thick and luxurious scented body butter or lotion take your time and massage your body as you relish the healing power of touch.

5.  Treat your feet.  Years ago I fell in love with the Peppermint Cooling Foot Lotion by The Body Shop.  I love to use it after a long soak in the tub.  The peppermint is soothing and smells so good and the product is rich, luxurious, cool and refreshing to your feet.  It is quickly absorbed so not slippery.

Whether you do all five, or only have time to do one, little moments like these help melt away stress at the end of the day.  Take time to experience the joy and love yourself!

Neatly Folding a Fitted Sheet

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thBed linens and towels always bring a sweet smile to my face.  There is nothing nicer, more soothing or comforting than snuggling into a freshly sheeted bed.

I pride myself on my linen closet.  It is five shelves in total and not very large, but I try to keep things neat and organized.  Most of my other closets are somewhat disheveled but I like to see my linen closet very neat.

Blankets and quilts are neatly folded and kept on the top shelf since they are seasonal items. This is also where I keep my extra pillows. On the main, eye-level shelves, I keep my towels neatly folded along with a small supply of extra washcloths. This is also where I keep my sheets including my two sets of flannel sheets (I wish I knew a secret to minimizing the bulkiness of flannel sheets!). On the lower shelf I keep the cloth napkins and placemats, tablecloths, along with the kitchen dish cloths and dish towels.  I do separate the Christmas napkins, placemats, tablecloths and dish towels from everything else so I can easily pull out Christmas items.

I like to organize my queen-size sheets with the fitted sheet on the bottom, the two pillow cases in the middle and the flat sheet on top.  This keeps my matching sheet sets all in one neat bundle.  This way I simply pull out the sheet set I want to use and move on.  Uniform.  Consistent.  Every time.

I know someone who tucks their fitted sheet, flat sheet and one pillow case inside one of the sheet set pillow cases so their queen-sized sheets are stored in a nice little bundle!  I gave it a try but it wasn’t for me.  My Aunt likes to fold her flat sheet over the fitted sheet and pillowcases (imagine the flat sheet in the shape of a C with the fitted sheet and pillowcase tucked inside the C). I’m all for storing things in the way that brings you comfort!

I was looking for something the other day on Oprah’s website and ran across this video of Martha Stewart responding to a question by showing the viewer how to fold a fitted sheet (I remember watching this show!).   I don’t have a folding board (I use the bed), nor do I use Martha’s particular methodology.  Here is Martha Stewart with Oprah:

http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/How-to-Fold-a-Fitted-Sheet-Video

I start out like Martha by holding the fitted ends of freshly washed and dried sheets together but instead of turning them up inside one another, I fold them down then tuck them in.  This makes the sheet flat and square.  Then I fold up, smooth and keep smoothing as I fold to my desired size.  That is the way my Mom taught me.  Nice, neat, non-bulky.  The key is to keep smoothing as you fold.  My fitted sheets end up the same size as my folded flat sheet. Uniform. Consistent.  Every time.

I decided to look up a few other methods and included them below:

Real Simple:

http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/cleaning/laundry/fold-fitted-sheet-00000000002236/

Consumer Reports:

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/video-hub/home–garden/bed–bath/folding-fitted-sheets/16935265001/74731173001/

Living on a Dime:

 

Joy Stealers

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Something happened at work the other day that really got me going.  I steamed and stewed over the incompetent behavior of another person because it impacted the ability to perform my job.  Well, you know what?  They were just zipping around breezing through their day and here I was stewing most of the work day as a result of their mess.  But I still met my deadline!

As I was relaxing at home later that evening I realized this person stole my joy.  Instead of being my normal happy-go-lucky self, letting things roll off my back, I allowed this person to get under my skin.  They stole my joy.  And I didn’t like it.

It made me think there are so many things that can steal our joy:

  • Frustration
  • Discouragement
  • Discontentment
  • Unforgiveness
  • Criticism
  • Gossip
  • Fear
  • Negativity
  • Incompetence
  • Envy
  • Jealousy
  • Lack

joy stealersThings, and people, that steal our joy always bring negativity.  I view negativity as focused attention on a behavior, action or interaction that is either an actual or a perceived threat. In my situation, I was threatened that I would not meet the deadline for my client because of the failed actions of another person which made me feel anxious and frustrated.  I had to pause and refocus on how I would complete my task, in less time than originally scheduled, and still meet the established timeline.

Negativity often brings out the worst in us because it is the polar opposite of, and a direct threat, to our immediate happiness.  The effects of negativity include:

1.  The manifestation of physical symptoms (e.g., tense muscles, increased blood pressure, headache, stomach ache, diarrhea, etc.), anxiety or depression.

2.  Raised voices, arguments, disagreements, a sharp tongue with words that tumble out as a jumbled, twisty, messy stream of irrational thoughts, complaints, worries and frustrations.

3.  Development of strong emotions such as self-doubt, criticism, anger and extreme rage.

4.  Emotional shut down and internalization of negative feelings and emotions.

To rid ourselves of negativity, stop for a minute and think about what it is you have control over.  Refocus your thoughts.  Become unbiased.  Don’t place blame or be the victim.  Remove or excuse yourself from the situation if you can.  Stop the negative chatter.  Practice forgiveness.  Find the gratitude in the moment.  This will restore your joy and your peace.

This is one of my favorite scriptures on remaining joyful and being grateful regardless of what life throws our way.  One translation says “Be joyful always!”

Always be joyful.  Always keep on praying.  No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. ~ I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Things will happen that make us negative.   We cannot escape it.  We don’t smile through pain, crisis, sorrow, the loss of a loved one and other negative or traumatic life experiences.  However, I believe the way we respond makes us emotionally resilient and allows us to bounce back from the minor or major struggles, trials and hardships in life.  The scripture above commands us to “always be thankful”.  Find ways to turn any negativity into joy and gratitude.  Regardless of the circumstance there is always an element of gratitude.

What steals your joy and how do you reclaim it?

A New Twist on Avocado

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I am a foodie.  I started cooking at a very young age.  I would follow my Grandmother around the kitchen observing her every move and asking her what I could do to help.  She would be in her apron and I would wear one of her spare aprons like a dress – tied either just below my underarms or around my neck.  I have many fond memories of holding the mixing bowl while making homemade pound cake or brownies followed by licking the hand-held beater blades before placing the mixing bowl in the sink, standing on a chair in order to reach the counter to break eggs for cornbread, transferring cut fruit into the baking dish for fruit cobblers (I wanted to cut the fruit so badly but I was too little to hold the knife!) and learning how to make pancakes along with the thrill of watching closely to know exactly when to flip them over.

I still love to just sit and read cookbooks or any kind of recipe I can get my hands on.  For me, that is fun and relaxing.  I have a notebook of recipes I’ve torn out of magazines in waiting rooms…..I kid you not!  Cooking pointers and tips always bring me joy!

It is also a joy to make up my own recipes.  Several bloggers have such creativity in developing some of the most amazing recipes!  I am definitely someone who loves to experiment and try new recipes but some recipe creations developed by bloggers absolutely blow my mind.

Avocado is a favorite in my household.  I love it any way I can get it.  Raw with a little salt and pepper.  Or simply with a splash of citrus (lime or lemon) and cumin is pure perfection. However, I use it all the time to make several items outside of the old standby guacamole.

I was intrigued by a recipe I found over at EatMunchLove.  I’ve seen avocado used for baking cookies but I had never seen avocado used to make baguettes. Let me be the first to say using yeast scares me.  I’ve only made yeast rolls once before and it totally intimidated me. Yet if you give me a recipe for a quick bread, I’m all over it, but yeast…

Well, I must say the image of these avocado baguettes, which I would eat drizzled with a little bit of melted whipped butter and a cup of hot tea, is calling out to me. I am going to give yeast breads another try starting with this recipe.  It looks simple enough.  I think the payout of crusty fresh made bread seems totally worth it.

An added perk is that baking any type of bread always makes my house smell fabulous!

Here is the recipe:

http://eatmunchlove.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/avocado-baguettes/

3 Things We Often Take for Granted

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Yesterday we celebrated Memorial Day.  A day that honors men and women in the armed services who sacrificed their lives, for service to country, to allow us to live freely.  People honor their lost loved ones with floral tributes at tombstones, concerts and in other formal and informal ways.  Yet many people still view Memorial Day simply as a day off and take for granted all that these brave and inspirational men and women have done to defend our country.

There are numerous things that we often take for granted and shouldn’t.  These too are inspirational often forgotten little nuggets of joy.  Below are three things we often don’t think about until these necessities and luxuries are no longer freely available.

1.  Our heartbeat.  We may not like the way our feet look, the size of our deltoids, or even the color of our hair, etc. yet how often do we stop and think that life is a gift and a blessing?  Our heartbeat is a steady, constant, electrical rhythm reflecting the number of times our heart beats per minute.  Our heartbeat means life and life means breath.  We take it for granted until the doctor says our heart is out of rhythm either beating too slowly or too rapidly.

2.  Water.  Here in the United States water is plentiful.  It is freely available for purchase in bottled form  in a variety of brands to suit our taste (e.g., mineral, spring, sparkling, distilled, etc.).  We even filter or purify water in our homes to add to our BPA-free bottles and containers to carry to the gym or when we are out running errands.  We use it to wash our produce, our bodies and our cars. The thought of brushing our teeth without clean water is such a foreign concept; however, in many parts of the world water is in crisis, a scarcity not freely available.  It is not plentiful.  It is not purified or filtered. Quite simply – it is not clean or drinkable.  They can’t walk to the corner store to grab a bottle or turn on the tap expecting clean clear water to flow freely.

3.  Time.  Tomorrow is not promised for anyone.  As human beings, we often put things off until tomorrow, next week, next month.  Or whenever.  Do whatever it is that you are dreaming of or have been putting off.  Say I love you to the people who matter today.  Play.  Dance in the rain.  Forgive.  Take the time while you have it.  Don’t wait until time is limited for then you may not be able to enjoy it.

Today give thanks there is breath in your body and that your heart beats strongly for you.  There are people who would love to have a normal heartbeat and not have to rely on a mechanical device like a pacemaker or other invasive treatments and/or surgery to control their abnormal heart rhythms.

Give thanks for water as you prepare your dinner, take a shower or wash your hair.  There are people who would love to use clean water on a daily basis to drink or wash their face and bodies.

Give thanks for the time you have with your family, on your job, in pursuing your education.  Use it wisely.  There are people who have plenty of time but cannot do with it what they want due to dementia or the long-term effects of a stroke or other medical condition that has robbed their physical body or their mental capacity.

Live with gratitude.

What things, or people, do you often take for granted?

Wrestling with Anxiety

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Anxiety is the unpleasant anticipation of future events. It can be as simple as a stress reaction to situational events such as the anticipation of taking a college entrance exam, running late to an important appointment after being stuck in traffic, knowing your checkbook balance won’t cover an unexpected expense or the nervous anxiety over meeting with a boss to discuss your performance review.

Anxiety can also be much more complex such as being clinically diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or a post-traumatic condition.  Clinically, there are numerous types of anxiety including:  generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias and social anxiety disorder. Multiple treatment modalities are used in the treatment of anxiety including:  relaxation therapy, lifestyle modification, dietary modification, behavioral and cognitive therapy, counseling and medication therapy.

In today’s society, the effects of chronic stress on the physical body are numerous and significant and frequently caused from being overworked to lack of sleep to poor diet to lack of exercise to nonstop electronic media in the form of texts, cell phone calls, email, social media, etc.  The list, and the stressors of modern life, goes on and on.  These stressors can often trigger feelings of anxiety or panic.

At some point in our lives we all wrestle with anxiety.  When anxiety initiates from benign stress reactions then it is important to seek ways to add more balance in your life to destress and relax (e.g., a walk on your lunch break or after dinner, spending time with friends, streaming a comedy, yoga or Qigong, a game of tennis, meditation, etc.). If you believe the cause of your anxiety is more complicated than a simple stress reaction, if it seems paralyzing or a little irrational, or your anxious feelings continue to linger without any signs of improvement seek help with a licensed counselor or a medical or mental health professional.

I recently saw this article, with infographic, on huffingtonpost.com.  The infographic is EXCEPTIONAL and self-explanatory of the physical toll anxiety takes on our bodies.

The full article on the physiological impact of anxiety appears below:

No one likes to experience bouts of stress or anxiety — and when it becomes a chronic occurrence, its impact can go from a little annoyance to a health hazard. Whether you’re experiencing an isolated, high-stress situation or you’re one of the 40 million Americans who suffer from anxiety disorder, your physical reaction to the emotion can affect you in more ways than you may have realized. Read on to discover how anxiety changes your body, whether it’s your immediate reaction to stress or a long-term battle. When the body first suffers from anxiety, you may experience…

Throat troubles. That croaky, squeaky voice that seems to have possessed your vocal chords is your immediate reaction to a stressful situation. When anxious feelings creep in, fluids are diverted to more essential locations in the body, causing spasms in the throat muscles. This results in tightness, making it dry and difficult to swallow.

Liver reactions. When the body undergoes stress and anxiety, the adrenal system produces an excessive amount of the stress hormone cortisol. That hormone production leads the liver to produce more glucose, the high-energy blood sugar that engages your “fight or flight” reactions. For most people, this extra blood sugar in the body can be simply reabsorbed with no real damage. However, for those at risk for diabetes, the extraneous blood sugar could potentially cause health issues.

Skin reactions. That cold, clammy sweat or your warm, flushed cheeks is the body’s outward sign of immediate stress — all due to a change in blood flow. When we experience anxiety, the body’s “fight or flight” system pushes more blood to your muscles — a useful reaction when there’s an immediate need for it. However, a long-term, overexposure to this reaction has the potential to make the skin age faster. Other skin reactions include perspiration and even increases in histamine, which can result in swelling. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, severe stress and anxiety can also trigger eczema outbreaks.

An active spleen. Anxiety doesn’t just engage the obvious organs like our brains and our hearts, but it even affects internal functions like our spleens and blood cells. In order to distribute more oxygen to the body that may have been depleted during the stressful situation, the spleen discharges extra red and white blood cells. Your blood flow also increases by 300 to 400 percent during this process in order to prep the rest of the body for added demands.

Tense muscles. When you start to feel anxious, the body naturally tightens up, creating strain on large muscle groups. Chronic stress and anxiety can exacerbate this tension, which can result in headachesstiff shouldersneck pain and even migraines. People in a constant state of stress also are at a higher risk for chronic musculoskeletal disorders.

After a while, chronic anxiety can have an effect on…

Your heart. Anxiety and chronic stress sufferers are more at risk for cardiovascular problems due to a constant increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure and overexposure to cortisol. According to the American Psychological Association, long-term stress can also lead to hypertension, arrhythmias and an increased risk for heart attack or stroke.

Your lungs. Studies have shown that there is a relationship between those who suffer from anxiety disorders and asthma. People who suffer from asthma are also more likely to experience panic attacks. According to research conducted by the University of Sao Paulo, there could also be a link between anxiety, asthma and its effects on balance.

Your brain. The most prominent reaction to anxiety is the psychological response to the condition. Chronic stress and anxiety can affect areas of the brain that influence long-term memory, short-term memory and chemical production, which can result in an imbalance. Additionally, chronic stress can constantly activate the nervous system which can in turn influence other systems in the body, triggering physical reactions, wear-and-tear on the body, fatigue and more. People who suffer from anxiety also often have trouble falling asleep due to ruminating over worrisome thoughts. Approximately 54 percent of people say stress and anxiety influences their ability to drift off and more than 50 percent of men and more than 40 percent of women have trouble focusing the next day as a result, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Your immune system. Exposure to stress can take a negative toll on the immune system, causing the function to become suppressed due to the body’s “fight or flight” reaction. Studies have also found that when you’re stressed, you’re also more likely to catch a cold and more susceptible to infections and inflammation.

Your stomach. When your body experiences stress, it doesn’t properly regulate food digestion. Chronic and extreme stress can also have long-term effects on your intestines and what nutrients they absorb, causing refluxbloatingdiarrhea and sometimes even loss of bowel control. Long-term stress and anxiety can also alter the body’s metabolism, which could lead to weight gain and possibly obesity. One study found that the constant release of cortisol in the bloodstream can reduce insulin sensitivity, and other recent research also discovered an association between adults who suffer from anxiety and physician-diagnosed ulcers.

Source:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/20/your-body-on-anxiety_n_5352548.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063

When I am anxious my stomach is in knots.  I find meditating on the following scripture helps calm my anxious mind:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-7

How do you manage the anxieties in your life?  In what ways do you destress and seek balance?  If warranted, have you considered seeking medical help to manage your anxiety?