What is the End of the World, anyway?

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”~ Dr. Seuss

Image Source:www.timeanddate.com/calendar/maya-world-end.html

Image Source:www.timeanddate.com/calendar/maya-world-end.html

So – what is the end of the world, anyway? What does the end of the world as we know it mean?

These questions have been flying around as the legendary end of the Mayan long-count calendar approaches, which falls (according to north american “experts”) on December 21, 2012.

Personally, I think the end of the world has come and gone many times over, and will come and go many times over in the future. I believe it is also highly personal. And I believe what can be the end of the world as we know can mean a brand new beginning and a new world to discover.

Just looking at this 2012 year exemplifies that for me.

A friend lost her child when a pre-natal check-up showed no heart beat – the world as she new it ended that day. Couples divorced, fighting bitter battles over child custody or money – the children’s worlds ended as they knew it. Someone gets officially diagnosed with a chronic illness like MS – the world ended as they knew it that day. A maniac kills innocent children and adults for some unknown and whacked-out reason – the world as the families of the victims ended as they know it that day. Militants, rebels, and corrupt governments fight endlessly, killing civilians and military personnel – the world as they and the people around them know it ended, repeatedly.

On the other side of the coin, there is a new beginning. But that new beginning is not necessarily always easy or painless. The person diagnosed with a disease starts a support group and sees a new beginning and a new life managing and coping. The results of the maniacal killing spree of a whacko spurs a new beginning for better and safer gun laws and restrictions. I married my best friend, lover, hero, and the most wonderful man I have ever met; that day the end of the word as I knew it occurred – and a brand knew world began for me.

As human being, we seem to always search for the “end of the world” somewhere. Do we really need to look for the end of the world in things we cannot control, big or small? I say “Stop”. Look a little bit closer to home…and appreciate what you have around you. Appreciate the little endings, the little beginnings – the world around you. Don’t try to control what you simply cannot. Don’t panic about things that have no basis in truth.

The world changes every single day. Be grateful for the world as YOU know it.

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” ― Robert Frost

(See you on the other side of the End of the World. ;)

Namaste

Carolyne

It Takes a Team to Manage your Health

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.  ~World Health Organization, 1948

One thing I have learned over the years is that the support of a team is essential for so many achievements in life, be it at work or at home. The same is very true for managing health if you live with chronic illness.

But what does that team look like? Well – it varies for every person. A team can be you and a family member. It can be small. It can be large. One large team…or teams within a team. It can consist of close contacts. It can consist of near strangers. What matters is that you feel supported by your team.

I consider myself very lucky, despite my health challenges. I have a fantastic support team. My support team includes my family, my colleagues, my medical healthcare team, my pets, my yoga community, and my new synchro swimming buds. One large team…with teams within a team.

Each member of what I call my support team helps me along my journey and in managing my health in his or her own way, at various times. (And yes – sometimes they don’t even know how much they may have helped me in one moment or another.) My husband cheers me on, and is there to catch me when I fall or when I just need someone to hold me and hug me and tell me it will all be ok. The rest of my family are also there to cheer me on and catch me when I fall – as are my closest friends. My boss allows me to work primarily from home so that I can keep working. I also am lucky enough to have developed good relationships and friendships with my medical support team – from my neurologists to my massage therapist, chiropractor, and osteopath. With my synchro team, I have a fantastic coach who supports my goals for competition and respects me enough to push me when she knows I need that pushing. My health history doesn’t scare her at all.

I am very appreciative of all of their contributions to how I manage my health. And I try to let them know that as often as I can.

And I appreciate you all – as my readers, you are also a part of my support team…so thank you!

Teamwork is the ability to work as a group toward a common vision, even if that vision becomes extremely blurry. ~Author Unknown

Who  makes up your support team?

Namaste

Carolyne

Serenity in the Challenge and the Chaos

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” ― Helen Keller

Whew – life can get chaotic sometimes, can’t it? I think of my own life right now – talk about chaos! Sometimes I am exhausted just thinking about it: a new marriage; long-term things coming to a head at work; moving an entire household; taking on a new cause and awareness raising initiative; raising teenagers; and staying on top of my health management. Keeping balance through our chaotic times can be a challenge in itself.

Life can be full of challenges in periods of chaos. And – sometimes challenges can bring us adventure – and sometimes that very adventure brings us serenity and inner peace.

Even with all the “busy-ness”, I have been feeling more “me” than ever before in my life. Part of it is that I married my life partner, BFF, and soul mate. Part of it is that I am “able”, despite my health constraints. But a big part of it has been facing a huge challenge and taking a little slice of “me” back from the constraints of my chronic illness – in this case, by getting back into the water.

Synchronized swimming is back in my life – and, boy oh boy, did I ever miss it and hadn’t even realized it! I am a water baby at the core – always have been. I am never more relaxed mentally, spiritually, and emotionally than when I am in or near water. My personal challenge is to be fully active and even competing in the Masters Synchro world by my 50th birthday. That is not that far off. The biggest challenge was getting back in the water itself – knowing that a seizure in the water is a dangerous thing.

You see, I want to raise awareness for the Stigma against Seizure Disorders as I travel this journey I call my life. (Look for a facebook page down the road. Yup – more to keep me busy and challenged!) Raising awareness means being transparent to a large degree. That is, in and of itself, a challenge. It means disclosing (repeatedly) that I have a seizure disorder – but that I don’t let it stop me from living my life to its fullest potential. It means telling each lifeguard what I need them to watch for and do. It means making sure that my coach knows what my “deal” is – and making sure she is comfortable with it. It means facing the fear every day. It means working every day to keep motivated, no matter what.

But these very challenges are the fuel that fire my inner peace. Knowing I may help just one person by sharing my experiences fuels that fire, and brings me a sense of serenity. Knowing that I have the courage to face a fear and break the social assumptions by getting back into the water, despite all the warnings about the dangers – that brings me a sense of serenity and inner peace. (Being underwater in the cool blue – that alone brings me serenity.) That’s what works for me. That, currently, is my daring adventure!

Finding serenity and inner peace – that is a personal journey, and each individual defines that for themselves. Serenity and peace in the challenge and chaos – I firmly believe it can be found…if you allow yourself to see it and recognise it. What does it look like for you?

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled.  For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” ~ unknown

Namaste

Carolyne

Life and Trust and the Ability to Fly

“I’m flying, Jack! ” ~ Rose De Witt Bukater

This weekend marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Living in Halifax for this anniversary has been very interesting…larger than life in someways, and weirdly revealing in other ways. Revealing in that while something as epic as the Titanic exists, what it all really boils down to is trusting the decisions you make every day: Trusting yourself to fly in the face of what seems insurmountable.

One of my all time favorite movies has been and is James Cameron’s Titanic movie. The picture I have above is, to me, one of the most inspiring pictures – because it depicts the first step in someone’s ability to trust themselves and eventually fly free. Why? Because the character of Rose opened her heart just a bit to the possibilities and positive energies of the world just by placing trust in her own abilities, fledgling though they may be, to really fly in the world – recognizing the support around her for the first time. Her eyes were opened to a whole new world and her trust in herself was sparked, to be fueled into a roaring fire.

Confidence and self-trust basically come from the emotional state. Confidence is your ability to cope and depend upon yourself to create a reality that is dependable. When you are dealing with tough situations in life, like a crisis or a chronic illness that must be managed, having self-trust is a critical key to that coping. It allows you to assess the situation, and make decisions – and trust your own decisions. Is it scary? It can be. It can also be the easiest thing in the world.

For me – my self-self trust is something I value greatly. (And somehow, as I have aged, I have noticed it becomes much stronger! All that life experience and wisdom gets packed in the brain nice and tight…or maybe too tight, eh? :) I trust that every day, using all the knowledge I have learned over the years, I can make decisions to keep moving me forward on my own path, unique as it is – no matter what my health throws at me or otherwise.  (And yoga’s teaching & benefits have definitely helped me along that path.)

What I have learned is that there is no such thing as a mistake in life – every experience is something that can be learned from. This I trust – because I trust myself to see the experience for what it is (whether a seizure or an MS exacerbation or something else in life), to find a way to turn negatives into positives, and to generally find the right path forward, even if I may have stumbled off it. My very training as a meteorologist taught me a good part of that – by making self-trust a huge part of the job. You have to trust your information in a smart way, assess and analyse it, discard what has little value, make a decision and trust in your decision. Don’t second guess yourself – as that undermines your own self-trust. Even if that decision turns out to be the wrong one, don’t distrust yourself – you made the best decision with the information you had. You do better when you know better. So, amend. That’s part of the life journey.

“Life is like forecasting. You make a decision based on your best analysis, and if you’re wrong, you change it.” ~ Jim Abraham, Environment Canada Meteorologist

No matter what you are going through in life, there will come a time for  you to fly. Trust in your own ability to do just that!

Namaste

Carolyne

Toxic People are also Toxic for your Health!

Live or die – but don’t poison everything. ~ SAUL BELLOW

Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by the negativity of someone around you? Blinded by their own negativity, they are prevented from seeing the good around them.  I definitely have been affected by toxic people at times in my life – and it drains you of valuable energy – energy we need to keep healthy and promote our well-being.

Recently I had to spend about an hour or so with someone that I typically avoid because of the negative energy he continuously exudes. I had braced myself for the necessary time – but sure enough, within the space of about 75 minutes he had managed to insult me, a number of my colleagues, and even my mother!! Because I refuse to engage with such people at their level, I simply kept a peaceful smile (my yogic smile) on my face and made no comments to his roiling negativity, as to engage with him, even if only to point out the positives, would be about as useful as banging my head repeated against a brick wall. But the moment I was able to get away from him, I did so.

Even so, I was completely drained of energy and had developed a pounding headache. It just re-enforced to me what I already know: toxic people are toxic for one’s health! It took me a good part of my evening to slough the negativity residue off me…by doing some yoga and watching comedy. And it highlighted once again to me that part of managing one’s health is also managing (where possible) how much, if any, exposure you allow yourself to people of a toxic and negative nature.

The best way of removing negativity is to laugh and be joyous. ~ David Icke

So – laugh. Enjoy the sun. See the positive around you – really see it. And walk away from chronically toxic people whenever possible. It’s called self-preservation!!

Namaste

Carolyne

Lifestyle Changes due to Chronic Illness and How to Deal with it

“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” ~Kenji Miyazawa

Image Source: nickomargolies.com

A chronic disease like Multiple Sclerosis (and many others) comes with a lifestyle change. It may be a noticeable lifestyle change – like going from walking to rolling; or from seeing to not seeing. But, it may not be immediately noticeable, as it may mean little tweaks here or there to diet, new or adjusted medication(s), accommodating fatigue, etc. It may be immediate, or it may change slowly as the disease progresses. No matter the pace…lifestyle changes due to MS or other chronic illness are usually faced at some stage.

One of the biggest fears is the uncertainty associated with a chronic illness such as MS or seizure disorder or other chronic illness. The condition may be sporadic (such as in a seizure event, in my own case), lasting only a short while. Or, it could be permanent, gradually worsening over time, such as in most of us dealing with MS.

Chronic illness can force us to face and deal with many potentially stressful lifestyle changes, such as giving up favorite activities, limiting social engagements, adapting to new physical limitations and special needs, and paying for what can be expensive medications and treatment services – or even choosing not to pay for these services due to resulting  financial changes. Even simple day-to-day living may be difficult. It can hit you like a sledge hammer, or creep up slowly over time. Over time, the stresses and anxious or even negative feelings can suck you dry of the emotional energy necessary to move forward. Lack of progress in your recovery or worsening symptoms can trigger negative thoughts that heighten feelings of anxiety and sadness and even anger, often leading to depression.

For me, the biggest sledge hammer was the loss of my driver’s license as a result of uncontrolled seizures. It was a huge lifestyle change – not only for me, but for my family, and even my ex husband! It necessitated a move, and a new working lifestyle and accommodation. It forced me to look at my lifestyle from a completely different perspective, and figure out how to accept all the change and move forward.

So how do we deal with it all? Well, for sure I can say that coping is highly individual. Adapting to your condition or feeling good about the future may seem impossible at first, but it can be done. (Seriously! And the good part? It gets easier over time as you develop your “happiness muscles”!) I wish I could say that there was a special techique, or a good recipe that always works. My own experience as shown me that even as an individual, one has to learn to roll with the changing changes…and that the look of that “coping” changes depending on the situation at hand. Does that mean it’s a hopeless cause trying to cope with lifestyle changes due to chronic illness? Nope – it just means there may be more interesting challenges than previously anticipated!

Here are some suggestions for coping with chronic illness:

  • Stay connected socially. It is so very important not to “turtle” for too long, leading to self-isolation. Establish and maintain quality relationships with friends and family. Join or form a community of positive support. Join a positive self-help group – and recognise that one size does NOT fit all. You may have to search around a bit. These groups will not only aid your own well-being, but also provide rewarding opportunities to help others.
  • Take care of yourself first. Don’t allow worries about your illness to get in the way of eating property, getting rest and exercise, and having fun. And don’t feel guilty for putting yourself first and saying “non” if there is too much on your plate or you simply need rest.
  • Maintain a daily routine of work, errands, household chores, and hobbies as much as possible. Include 15 minutes of daily meditation and/or yoga. These will help you sustain a feeling of stability amid the chaos and uncertainty of your illness.

(Reference: The American Psychological Association )

“A bend in the road is not the end of the road…unless you fail to make the turn.” -Unknown

Namaste

Carolyne

Blown Away in December!

“Make the best use of what is in your power and take the rest as it happens.” -Epictetus

This past number of days has been a series of days in which I have been blown away, both literally and figuratively!

I have been taking studies in change management, innovation, engagement and making change work. My mind has been figuratively blown away by new concepts, old concepts, developing theories and studies, evolving knowledge, and deepening passions as a result. (The scientist and self-researcher in me was enthralled!)

In addition, I have been physically blown away but one heckuva good winter storm that ripped roofs of building, dumped loads of water on us, and actually blew me 10 feet across an intersection! Roads were closed, buildings were closed, and power went out.  (The geeky meteorologist in me was absolutely thrilled by all that!) I was so grateful that my footing was strong thanks to my yoga practice. Before yoga, I would have been swept off my feet onto my butt with the inability to balance and feel strong on my feet.

What a crazy, busy couple of weeks!

It all made me start thinking more about how the busy-ness of the holiday season can also blow us away – by overwhelming our abilities to handle all the holiday bustle, the commitments, the emotional ups and downs, the temptations, and so on. It can be a period of emotional joy, upheaval, or sadness. It can be fun, boring, or painful. It all depends on your own personal perspective and experience.

When we are managing our health in the midst of all this bustle, we can easily forget our own needs – such as medications, exercise, stress management. We might take on too much in the excitement of the season – doing more baking or committing more time to activities that overwhelm us if we don’t take car to maintain a fine balance. Routines get blown away – and even our resolve can get blown away.

When managing a chronic illness like MS, it is really important to make sure you take time to rest. Take the moments when you can – even if your routine is blown away.

Here are a few Tips and Tricks for Not getting “Blown Away” over the holidays:

  • Take a moment in the midst of a party or social function to sit and simply breathe and regain some energy. Focus on your yogic deep breathing in order to refresh yourself and reduce fatigue levels. Do this for 5-10 breaths to refind your inner calm.
  • Practice yoga for at least 15 minutes each day. Even if the only pose you practice is Savasanah (Corpse pose, or Relaxation Pose), spend that 15 minutes like it is the most precious 15 minutes of your entire day!
  • Don’t be afraid to put yourself first and say “no” when you feel the need.
  • Smile!

“Life is so great that we only get a tiny moment to enjoy everything we see. And that moment is right now.” -Neil Pasricha

Namaste y’all

Carolyne

Emotions are Catchy: Managing Emotional Overload during Stressful Times

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” -Etty Hillesum

Have you ever noticed that if you are hanging out with happy people, you often “catch” their mood and become happier, too? Or conversely, you start out in a great mood, then after some time with a grumpy colleague or friend who is negative, your own spirits tank to some degree? You’re feeling good at work until your grumbling co-worker comes in, complaining and criticizing endlessly – soon, you’re doing it too. On the flip-side, perhaps you’ve felt your sad, anxious, or lonely mood lift when your kids or significant other comes home, laughing happy and upbeat. That’s because emotions are contagious!

“Emotional contagion”.  Sounds serious, doesn’t it?? Simply put, it is a term specialists use when emotions “spread” from person to person, influencing the moods and behaviors of others. “Second-hand Stress or Depression.” Sounds like it should be part of a warning system on something – like the Canadian cigarette packs of today. Research in other fields is beginning to suggest that, like cigarette smoke, secondhand stress may be more harmful than we’d realized. (Second-Hand Stress)

Generally speaking, the people most likely to cause you secondhand stress or depression are those closest to you — your spouse, kids, parents, co-workers that you see every day — since their problems have direct, as well as indirect, impacts on you.The more you identify with a person, the closer you are to them, the more likely you are to catch the emotion. Most of the time, we are not even aware it is happening. As we develop our personal self-awareness, we can become adept at recognizing it sooner.

Personally, I came to a conscious awareness of how deeply second-hand stress and depression was affecting me when I have a catastrophic technical break-down that forced me to change up my daily routine for a bit. Workplace stress and staff cutbacks had created a very depressing and stressed atmosphere that was affecting me, making me feel unmotivated, disengaged, tired, and frustrated – but it was compounded by some family health issues with depression and anxiety at home. After the technical breakdown forced me have to go into the office daily for a week, rather than my usual working from home accommodation for my health, I was anticipating that I would become even more stressed, fatigued, and demotivated. Interestingly enough – that did not happen. After 2 days at the office, surrounded by colleagues who have a naturally positive outlook and approach similar to mine, my mood lifted greatly. My work stress, while still there, felt lighter. Physically, yes – I was exhausted. But emotionally and mentally – I was jazzed.

So what happened?? Well – it was a combination of things. Firstly, at home, I was in the daily presence of my significant other who was going through a personal crisis and dealing with resultant clinical depression. Secondly, at work, two close colleagues who work with me took advantage of the fact that I was on site, and we spent a lot of time working together and getting things done (amidst a lot of laughter and goofiness) that might otherwise have taken longer remotely. So, basically – there had been an on-going drain on my emotional energy, and not enough positive re-filling. The change in my daily routine allowed me to recognize clearly what was happening – I was emotionally overloaded, and not all the emotional overload originated within me. Subsequently, I have made some changes (mostly in my own attitude) and my stress levels and mood are much better!

So how can we stop from catching someone else’s negative emotions – the “carriers”? Conversely, how can we recognise when we, ourselves, are the emotional contagion carriers?

Developing emotional awareness (source: gaiam.com)

  • Notice and name your emotions. Stop and spend a few minutes experiencing the emotions in your body. Notice what you’re feeling physically and then name the emotion. Don’t judge what you’re feeling, or change it. Just learn to recognize it.
  • Figure out where your mood is coming from. If you’re experiencing powerful emotions, like anger, consider where the emotional energy is coming from. Could it be residual emotion from a mood you were infected with hours ago? Identifying where your mood originates — for example, a sad mood could be a result of spending the day with a depressed friend — can keep us from misdirecting our emotions later.
  • Raise the feeling. Take time before any interaction to tune in to your emotions and shift them in a more positive direction. Try a quick gratitude exercise. Or set an intention for a patient, kind interaction with the person you’ll soon be meeting. Do something to generate good feelings or temper the bad ones so you have something positive to share.
  • Practice non-attachment. Meditate or do yoga to reduce the stress levels. Acknowledge where you are without judgment. Acknowledge what is yours, and what may not originate with you. Let go of what is not yours. Simply observe what is yours without condemnation.

Keep that in mind that the Holiday Season stresses build with the approaching festivities. The Holiday Season can be an especially stressful time, especially for those of us balancing holiday commitments and personal energy issues as a result of managing chronic illness.

When you keep in mind that emotional contagion is always at work at some level or another, positive or negative, you can automatically diffuse its power and become more aware of the emotions you’re both experiencing and sharing with the world.

“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” -Hermann Hesse

Namaste y’all!

Carolyne

Seeing the Light at the End of the Tunnel: Builiding your Resilience

“Continuous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlocking our potential.” ~Winston Churchill

http://www.babaloud.com/2011/05/amazing-inspirational-quotes/amazing-inspirational-quotes-16/(Photo Credit: http://www.babaloud.com)

Sometimes it can be tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s where personal resilience comes in. Resilience can help you know that even if you can’t see the light right now, you are confident that you will at some point.

If you google resilience, a Wiki definition comes up for resilience as:

Resilience in psychology refers to the idea of an individual’s tendency to cope with stress and adversity. This coping may result in the individual “bouncing back” to a previous state of normal functioning, or using the experience of exposure to adversity to produce a “steeling effect” and function better than expected (much like an inoculation gives one the capacity to cope well with future exposure to disease).[1] Resilience is most commonly understood as a process, and not a trait of an individual.[2]

Resilience is different for every person. When dealing with a chronic illness, resilience can mean the difference between life and death sometimes, or so it would seem when you feel like you have hit rock bottom. Resilience is what helps you find the strength to get back up one more time, try again once more, reach for the rope that you know is somewhere just out of sight.

Sometimes, people surprise me by saying to me: “How do you cope with it all? Shouldn’t you be a basket case by now? Why do you keep pushing forward? How do you do it?”

Honestly – I could not tell you the details of how I bounce back all the time, for the most part. Statistics often can say that a person who has dealt with multiple childhood traumas and multiple health issues should be having a really tough times surviving and living a good life. I just know that I do bounce back – to me there is no other logical choice but to keep trying, no matter what life throws at me. When you are down, rest, but look for the silver lining somewhere – no matter how small. Baby steps at times; sometimes, big leaps of faith.

My youngest son noticed this “bounce back” ability and surprised me one day by saying “Mom, no matter what happens, you are always happy and positive. Most people aren’t happy – but you always are. You are a very positive person. That’s interesting.” He noted it because he found it interesting that he does not think the same way as me, but that his older brother does more so, in terms of positivity and jumping in with both feet. (Both of my sons are absolutely brilliant, but my youngest is particularly deep, and often sees things in life in a very unique and clear way. He fascinates me!)

So how does one build resilience, if it is not instictive? Here are some tips…(reference source: Mayo Clinic)

  • Get connected. Building strong, positive relationships and support networks. Do volunteer work, get involved in your community, or join a spiritual community.
  • Make every day meaningful. Do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose every day. Set goals to help you look toward the future with meaning.
  • Learn from past experience. Think back on how you’ve coped with hardships in the past. Consider the skills and strategies that helped you through rough times.
  • Stay hopeful. You can’t change what’s happened in the past, but you can always look toward the future. Accepting and even anticipating change makes it easier to adapt and view new challenges with less anxiety.
  • Take care of yourself. Exercise daily. Get plenty of sleep. Eat a healthy diet. Practice stress management and relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing or prayer.
  • Take personal control – Be proactive!  Don’t ignore your problems or try to wish them away. Instead, figure out what needs to be done, make a plan and take action. Although it can take time to recover from a major setback, traumatic event or loss, know that your situation can improve if you actively work at it. This is one of the biggest keys to building your resilience, because perceived control is critical.

Once of the biggest helps to build your resilience is your perception of control in your own life. That’s where changing your perception to be proactive, and take control of the things you can, can make all the difference in the world. There are many things in life that are totally out of control – but take control where ever you can to help improve your situation in some small way. Many small steps eventually get you down the road, too.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” -William James

namaste y’all!

Carolyne

Related Posts: “The Value of taking Time for Laughter and Rest”