Tag Archives: health and fitness

Is Stress Bad…or Good?

We long for straightforward answers, and so rarely get them. What will my future look like? What job will make me the happiest? What exercise and eating plan will make me feel the healthiest version of myself? So many questions that demand a black and white answer. But, most answers fall into the grey. Even the impacts of stress fall into the grey.

It seems that stress can be both bad and good, but since the scenarios of when and how stress can cause us to stumble are more abundant, we will look at a few profound examples of how stress can actually benefit us. These are what I like to call “slingshot” scenarios. They are challenging times that cause us to move backwards and presumably, lose ground on our goals.

If you understand the simple principle of a slingshot, then you know where I’m heading with this…a slingshot pulls an object back to maximal tension before subsequently propelling it forward faster and farther than it would have traveled on its own. The slingshot effect is awesome. Truly, awesome. Unfortunately, it’s not always fun to be approaching that maximal point of tension…and, if that point of tension is held for too long, the slingshot will likely break.

Is stress bad or good

So, is stress bad or good? Below we look at two examples from nature and human experience that suggest that stress in moderation doesn’t fit neatly into a good or bad category. Stress in moderation is a necessity. It helps us become more resilient. It helps us thrive.

Scientists decided to examine the life cycle of trees grown in a fully protected environment, “Biosphere 2,” compared with trees encountering the varying forces of nature. The scientists found that the trees in Biosphere 2 grew more quickly than the other trees. This seems great – remove environmental stress and the trees flourish. Well, not quite.

Although the trees grew quickly, they fell over after reaching maturity. In an article called The Necessity of Stress, Travis Brownley explains that the scientists came to realize the following:

“…a lack of wind in Biosphere 2 caused a deficiency of stress wood. Stress wood helps a tree position itself for optimal sun absorption and it also helps trees grow more solidly. Without stress wood, a tree can grow quickly, but it cannot support itself fully. It cannot withstand normal wear and tear, and survive. In other words, the trees needed some stress in order to thrive in the long run.”

We see a similar phenomenon when we move from nature to human experience. Alison Levine, team captain of the first ever American Women’s Everest Expedition, encountered the forces of nature on Mount Everest and shared her experience with the world in a profound Tedx Talks. The 20 minute talk is absolutely mind boggling. You will take away far more than you imagined in that short time. Alison brings our attention to the fact that an expedition up Mount Everest actually consists of a lot of time climbing down!

the summit

 One of Alison’s many amazing quotes.

Alison’s team had to hike ten days just to make it to base camp. After several days acclimating to Base Camp, her team hiked up the mountain to Camp 1 and then back to Base Camp. After this, they hiked to Camp 2, before returning once again to Base Camp. Then, they hiked to Camp 1, Camp 2, and at last, Camp 3. And then? Yes, they hiked all the way back down the mountain to Base Camp. Hiking back down after each moment of triumph, reaching a higher altitude, was necessary to acclimate, recover, and climb higher.

While hiking back down the mountain is an obvious example of the aforementioned slingshot effect, Alison also brings up another form of stress; slow progress.

Alison takes us through what happens at the Death Zone on Mount Everest. The Death Zone is at 26,000 ft. altitude, where life can’t be sustained. Thanks to important gear, and taking five to ten breaths for every single step taken, Alison’s team continued to climb towards the summit. Think about it – in order to survive, you have to take ONE step, and then FIVE to TEN breaths, before lifting the other leg. Alison jests in her Tedx Talks presentation, “so…if you ever think you’re having a slow day…” For real, Alison. For real.

Clearly, a slow application of stress can be vital for success. If Alison’s team had tried to face to the top, they would have experienced certain defeat. As it turns out, Alison was just 300 ft. from the top of Mount Everest on her first expedition when she had to turn around due to weather conditions. She returns and conquers the mountain, but she remains more changed from the climb than actually reaching the summit. 

Stress, powerful force

So, how do you deal with “stress in moderation” when it feels tedious and frustrating? Alison suggests what worked for her; focus on what’s directly in front of you and just try to reach that milestone. Once you reach it, find the courage to tell yourself that if you made it that far, then you can try to reach the next milestone, and go for it.

For Alison, and many of us, it’s hard to understand the future. And yes, that can be stressful. But, as Alison says, “Sometimes, I think, you don’t have to have total clarity in order to just put one foot in front of the other.”

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz logo 2

 

References:

https://travisma.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/the-necessity-of-stress/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hUybmqUVmM

 

 

Advertisements

My Diary. Air France. A Happy Ending.

Starting in early 2015, the same week as the Charlie Hebdo shooting, several French citizens working for Air France made it their mission to embark on a two-month long, Sherlock Holmes style investigation to reunite a lost diary and its owner (me). This is the story of how the kindness of these strangers has impacted my life and how the power of positive thinking may have impacted theirs.

My Diary. Air France. A Happy Ending. Pic

January 10, 2015

It’s a full week after returning from vacation in Paris when I reach for my diary in the nightstand drawer and find that it’s missing. At first I stay calm and get out of bed to check the empty luggage, stowed away in the guest bedroom closet. It’s not there. Did I ask my husband to carry the diary in his briefcase on the way home from France? I check the brown leather briefcase that I proudly bought him two Christmases ago.  It’s not there either.

A tinge of panic sets in and I begin to investigate all sorts of places in my home where I never keep my diary, just in case. It has to be in this house. I have to find it. Please God, let me find it!

I desperately sort through all of the bookcases, check the storage ottoman in the den, and ravage all of the closets. But the diary isn’t anywhere.

I thunder up the stairs and into the master bedroom where my husband is lying peacefully. He always falls asleep first. I envy that of him. With complete disregard for his slumber, I say in a breathless voice, “Hun! I’ve lost my diary! It’s actually gone! I can’t believe it.”

My husband opens his eyes into half slits and peers at me. He knows my tone. He knows that this high octave is soon followed by tears. He waves me into the bed.

I lie down beside him with my heart racing, knowing that somewhere between DC and Paris my secrets and musings are vulnerable, available for any stranger to snatch up like hot cakes off a griddle. The thought of this is just too much to bear. I start to sniffle. My husband tries to console me and says that he will help me call the hotel we stayed at in France, near the Luxembourg Gardens. He says he will also call the airports that we traveled through, to check about lost and found items.

I appreciate his help and his attempts to console me, but I start to sob. I feel sorrow for losing nearly two years’ worth of recorded memories. I also feel fearful that whoever finds my diary will cast it aside like a day-old newspaper. Or worse, whoever finds it may actually read it! 

I try to rest but sleep stays just one step ahead of me for the next few hours…

This is the first diary I’ve lost out of dozens that I’ve kept over the years. Foolishly, I don’t have my contact information written in it. I never fathomed that I could ever misplace something so important. There is no hope in finding it.

Losing the diary feels more personal and upsetting than losing a wallet or expensive jewelry. Those possessions are not more valuable in my eyes. Plus, when you lose something of clear value, you feel like there’s 50/50 chance it will be found and turned in (or stolen). The precedence for returning a diary that doesn’t possess any contact information and is in a foreign language (given that I lost it in France)?! Well…I’ve never heard of it happening.

My Diary 8

January 28, 2015

Over the next few weeks after losing the diary, I wonder if I should start re-recording things. Every time I reach for the extra unmarked diary, that I happen to have on hand, I get a sense of unease. Something doesn’t feel right. I can’t come to closure over the loss. Instead, my mind runs over the countless memories I want to preserve, as though mentally rehearsing them feels more manageable than writing them down.

I wonder if my diary is at the bottom of a dumpster behind Charles De Galle airport or perhaps, has made its way into the trash in Amsterdam, where we had a layover. I wonder if someone picked it up, riffled through its pages, and tossed it aside, or if some curious stranger decided to read it, entertained by my ardent attempts to put even simple things into the silver lining of life. Will he or she think that I’m pathetic? Will there be laughter? Will it get passed around, for amusement’s sake, in the break room at work?

The diary that I lost in France has “Daily Positives” written plain and clear across the top of the first page. Albeit the rest of my handwriting is sloppy and atrocious by many standards…I’ve been told by more than one person that I don’t have a girl’s penmanship. My contact information should probably be written on the first page but nope, just Daily Positives, followed by hundreds of my daily activities.

So what are “Daily Positives?” They are simple notes that I write about the day’s happenings, both the “good” and “bad,” but each is given a positive spin. The practice is not to be unrealistic about life but rather, to find new energy in positive thinking and to move forward from each day choosing to look on the brighter side of things. It’s not always easy, as you can imagine.

I started this practice when I was in need of a little perspective shift. It was 2009, shortly after the American economy spiraled downward, when I was hit by a car. I was riding my bike to work and boom. It happened. My life was changed with no warning whatsoever, while birds chirped happily away in the early spring air. The pain I endured for the next few years was both physical and mental. I became an insomniac. I started to feel hopeless as each therapy and treatment I tried seemed to fail me. At long last, I decided that I would find a little something positive every single day, to write down in my diary at night. It helped me fall asleep a little faster. It began to improve my emotional stability. It started to heal me.

My Diary 12

February 6, 2015

I continue to wonder about the lost contents of my diary. Has someone read about my many attempts and failures at entrepreneurship? The shocking news my OBGYN dished out in August 2014? The young, doll-faced girl on the metro who hesitated and then said to me: “I promise, I usually never do this…and it might sound weird, but…err…okay, the thing is, I really feel like God wants me to tell you that everything is going to be okay.”?

Does the reader of my diary think I’m crazy for trying to put a silver lining to my encounters with people like the homeless woman I met in Chinatown, who was wailing, “Help me! Somebody, please help me! My God! Is everybody too busy? Everyone’s always so busy. Too busy to help me. Oh, please. Just somebody help!” Or my cab driver one night, whose young niece and nephew had been killed just hours earlier in a mid-December school attack in Pakistan?

There are so many memories that flash through my mind’s eye. As I remember each one, I feel raw anxiety…there’s no chance I can recapture these moments in all of their detail…

My Diary 4

February 25, 2015

I receive a message via WellnessWinz’s blog contact form. It’s from a man with Air France Customer Support who writes:

“Hello. Please contact me by mail about your “Daily Positives” which was found at Charles de Gaulle airport. Thank you.”

In that second, my mind starts running wild – someone actually FOUND my diary?! Should I be over-the-moon or terrified? How did someone figure out that the diary is mine? Then the obvious hits me: the blog!

Yes, of course! I wrote about starting the blog in the diary. But this means that someone must have read at least part of the diary in order to get it back to me! Who would take the time to do that? Who would scan the pages until finding the single incident in the diary where I mention the name of the blog?

I hesitate before deciding to swallow my pride. I embrace humility and gratitude.

My Diary 9

Feb 26 – Feb 28, 2015

Over the next few days, I learn that a female supervisor at Charles de Gaulle airport is the one who found my diary. She wrote to me via email that she held onto it because “it was so personal that it was just not possible to drop it.”

My new French friends at the airport apologized for the “necessary indiscretion” that enabled them to take on this “Sherlock Holmes investigation.Easily forgiven, of course.

These employees at Air France took it upon themselves to spend their valuable time trying to find me. They swallowed potential feelings of embarrassment for having to disclose that they perused the contents of my diary in order to find clues about its owner. When they finally found the only solid clue in the diary’s pages, they immediately searched online for WellnessWinz and contacted me.

Air France safely returned my diary to me, saying via email, “Air France is pleased to pay for this happy end story…a new positive item for your diary.”

This happy ending is indicative of the fine customer care at Air France, and also of the beauty of the human spirit. We feel less alone when we acknowledge the struggles and joys of others, akin to our own. In our own way, we all strive to discover the daily positives.

Kindness of Strangers

March 16, 2015

Part of this blog’s mission is to focus on various dimensions of wellness. Emotional wellness is definitely a piece of this journey.

So, my final words of gratitude: Air France…you just filled my emotional “love tank”…big time. Thank you.

DSC02917

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz logo 2

Quick Tips to Kick a Cold (lend Mother Nature a hand)

I was sitting down last Friday morning to prepare for Monday’s blog post when a friend asked for some quick, simple steps for kicking a cold she felt coming on. I’ve been handed this question in between more sniffles than I can account for, so it makes sense to defer my original article for later and offer up a few simple suggestions for kicking the one thing that makes the depths of winter worse than they already are: a head cold.

I’m not a doctor, but I’ve been told before that I’m a healer. Still deciding if I agree. If so, this isn’t because of mystical powers or celestial intervention. Not that I’m opposed to living out a Spiderman story of my own.

So, why can I help myself and others heal quickly? It’s because I’m a firm believer in the body’s ability to heal itself with proper rest, nutrition, and circulation…and when up against infirmity, I don’t belittle these essential lifelines. Or, for that matter, pop half a dozen pills and expect my body to “just deal with it.”

Nourish your body

Here we go…simple tips to lean on. If they don’t work, I’ll bring you chicken soup.

1) If you’re not having any digestive issues, try to eat as many greens as possible. Also berries, salmon, and mixed nuts have tons of health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties.

There have been numerous studies done on the benefits of nuts. Mixed nuts actually help reduce cardiovascular disease, cancer, infectious disease, annnnnddd RESPIRATORY disease! (We’ve all had a cold that’s moved from our heads to our chests…ouchy.)

2) Take a daily multivitamin as a nutrient safety net and a probiotic to build back the good bacteria in your gut. Make sure to consult with a doctor about the appropriate dosage for probiotics, especially if you’re on other medications.

Also, if you love your morning cup of java, try to leave your vitamins at the office to take at lunch or another time of day when caffeine isn’t in your system. Even though coffee can feel like your best friend, it actually reduces absorption of key vitamins and minerals (including Vitamin C and Zinc – crucial ones for your immune system)!

Coffee lover

3) Speaking of Zinc, this wonderful mineral is key for a healthy immune system. Oh yea, I said that already. It has been proven to shorten the duration of the common cold (whoopee!!!). If you’re like me, and you’re not chomping at the bit for oysters, lobster or red meat on a weekly basis, then you may not be getting enough Zinc. I do just love a juicy burger though.

A great way to get more Zinc during the onset of a cold is by taking Zinc lozenges. You can find these at most pharmacies near the throat drops. Zinc in the lozenge form tends to be easier on the stomach at non-meal times than a pill supplement.

4) Sometimes (when I’m super motivated), I will take Echinacea and/or have tea with it as an ingredient. Echinacea is a powerful herb that reduces the symptoms of colds by boosting the immune system. The jury is still out on whether it can also prevent colds.

If you want to find a robust tea, I suggest Yogi Teas. They are complex and delicious. They also evoke memories of my yoga studies in India…we had tea at least three times a day. The aroma of brewing tea wafted across the ashram, assailing my olfactory senses in fresh and delightful ways each day. Ahh, memory lane.

5) Did someone say India? Oh yes! I remember scarring you all a few months ago with visuals of me doing cleansings One of these cleansings is for your nasal passages. Cleaning them with a Neti Pot helps flush out debris and allergens. Your nose deserves a good cleaning just like your teeth!

It may be intimidating at first, but it will be worth it. You can pick up one at your local pharmacy. Quick tip: Don’t let your significant other watch…it ain’t pretty.

Chicken Soup

I hope these simple suggestions work wonders and help you stave off colds until spring allergies kick in! *Wink Wink* If not, the offer for chicken soup still stands…

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz logo 2

 

 

References:

http://www.anti-agingfirewalls.com/2013/12/01/nuts-over-nuts/

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-981-echinacea.aspx?activeingredientid=981&activeingredientname=echinacea

http://www.webmd.com/allergies/sinus-pain-pressure-11/neti-pots

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinc

https://www.yogiproducts.com/