Wake Up Call
With each passing week, my client Sue found herself bombarded by an increasing amount of chaotic symptoms, all stemming from an increasing amount of stress. She felt such a range emotions from small scale irritability, complaining and anger to full blown thoughts of harming her baby. Her angry thoughts started to become more and more obsessive and eventually she began plotting harmful things that should could do to herself and others. Then one day in a momentary flash of rage, she shook her baby. By some stroke of luck, and fortunately before she took it too far, she put her baby down and rushed to the garage to get away from the screaming.
In the garage she found glass bottles in the recycling bin and started throwing them against the garage door, listening to the crashing and shattering with great satisfaction. She guessed that she must have been out there hurtling glass for at least 10 minutes, but it’s all a blur. After taking all her anger out on the garage door, she finally felt a sense of relief and went back inside to find her baby sitting on the living room floor.
As I listened to the unfolding of Sue’s story, I could hear snippets of psychotic thinking in her words; she never thought about the fact that she was neglecting her baby while she was in the garage. Sue did the right thing by releasing her anger, but if she had been more stable, she would have put the baby somewhere safe first. Instead, she was too focused on feeling proud of herself for actively releasing her anger and not hurting her baby. She had seemed so normal the whole time I had known her and now I was worried, wondering if I had missed something all along.
It was clear that we needed to change Sue’s course of treatment, because what we were already doing didn’t seem to be working. My priority was to calm her mind quickly, not just for her own sake but also for the sake and safety of her child. As we discussed the options, adding an anti-psychotic medication seemed like a viable plan. The harmful thoughts that Sue was harboring scared both of us, but the thought of possibly needing to add this kind of medication to her treatment plan scared her even more.
Anti-psychotics certainly have their place in treatment plans, but they can cause all kinds of side effects that most people really don’t want. But when the circumstances are extreme enough, and especially when a baby could be in harm’s way, I am willing to do whatever it takes to prevent the worst case scenario from happening.
Fortunately, Sue was also willing to do whatever it took to get herself back within the realm of healthy functioning. I gave her two options; she could either adhere to a super healthy and highly restrictive diet paired with a vigorous daily exercise regime or start taking anti-psychotic medications. She chose the first option and convinced me that she was capable of sticking to it. I agreed to let Sue try the diet and exercise option, but kept her close on my radar for the possibility of needing to add medication.
A week later Sue reported that she felt fabulous, was doing great, and hadn’t had another angry outburst. She had lost seven pounds and was going strong. Her mind had shifted from the dark, negative and obsessive place she had been to a place of optimism, love and patience.
Sue’s story isn’t uncommon. So many people are placed on medications that they might not even need. Sometimes all that’s required is getting back to the basics and learning to take care of ourselves properly before turning to heavy duty medications. It makes me sad that so many people don’t have the willpower or the resources to take excellent care of themselves and follow through on becoming healthy in mind, body and spirit. It’s easy to say yes to medications and simply add another pill to your daily routine. It’s much harder to find the discipline, drive and determination to take the healthy path in life and completely reinvent your routine.
In our busy world, the convenient way has replaced the healthy way. We have so many commitments and responsibilities that we often forget our most critical responsibility: taking care of ourselves. Finding healthy food on the go can be a real challenge when we don’t have time or aren’t at home to prepare it. It’s awfully tempting to just cruise through the drive-thru on the way home and pick up dinner for the family. When it comes to exercise, so many people fight doing it, even those who enjoy it’s benefits. It is so easy to get side tracked with other priorities that we toss our exercise routine on the back burner and don’t categorize it as a necessity. So many of us are fueling our lives with caffeine, sugar, fast food, computers, television, and phones and at the end of the day it’s all too easy to turn to substances like alcohol, marijuana, anti-anxiety or pain medications, and other drugs for a little relaxation. We all know which choice is easiest, but which choice will help you craft the life you really want for yourself?
I too am challenged by my self-care routine. I work really hard at it and it has become my second job. To succeed I have to pay attention to everything I’m eating and drinking, I need to think ahead for meal planning and create time to prepare my food, and I schedule in my exercise just like I schedule my clients. I track the time at night to make sure I hit the sack at a reasonable hour so that I feel refreshed when my body wakes me up in the early hours of the morning. I feel like I’m continually paying attention to what I am doing and yes, sometimes that gets frustrating, but I’ve come to learn that this is not a burden, it’s just a fact of what it takes to live a healthy life.
Sue’s wakeup call was her choice between heavy medication and a healthy lifestyle. We don’t all need to wait for such an extreme alarm to get our lives on track. We can make that choice today to honor our mind, body and spirit by making ourselves a priority. With diligent practice, saying NO can become just as easy as saying yes and saying NO can leave us feeling proud of ourselves instead of feeling angry and guilty for saying yes to poor choices.
All of my clients tell me they want to be happy. They want to feel good. They want energy. They want their lives to be easy. Having all these things (and more!) takes discipline and requires us to avoid the convenient ways of life. Today is a great day to start practicing saying NO to convenience and YES to health.
12 Tips to Feeling Great in Mind, Body and Spirit
Start with the end in mind. Think about how you want to feel day and night.
Getting adequate sleep will determine your outlook on life, your ability to pay attention, and to track what you do and how you do it. So get to bed and get a minimum of 6 1/2 hours sleep each night. Pay attention to your body and how much sleep it needs.
Start your day with something inspirational like a prayer, poem, song or affirmation. Choose one that leads your mind in the direction you want to be headed all day.
Take one minute to connect with yourself in the morning. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time and being fully present by becoming one with your breath can do the trick. Connecting with yourself in the morning and several times throughout the day can have a profound effect on keeping you calm, centered and on track with your self-care. If you’re ambitious, doing a daily 15 – 20 minute relaxation or meditation will only add incredible benefits to your life over time.
Get some exercise each day. Vary it up. Remember that stretching, cardio, and muscle strengthening are all important components of your exercise routine.
PAUSE before thinking about what you want to eat. Take a deep breath and connect with yourself. Then ask yourself – what will make my mind, body and spirit feel good? What nutrients do I need for my health and well-being?
Eat slowly, savor your food, and enjoy your meal.
Smile and laugh more! Watch comedies and light-hearted movies.
Avoid the news and heavy or depressing shows right before bed.
Get off the computer two hours before going to bed. Let your mind calm down.
Take some “ME” time each day.
Do something creative and fun each day.