Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Staying Positive- It's Not Easy, but I Have Choir

It's not easy to stay positive sometimes. 

Yesterday, there were so many upsetting posts on Twitter, Facebook, everywhere! Everywhere I looked, I was reminded of awful things. It got me down. I had to stop looking! But, sometimes it's hard to stop. The pull of negativity is strong. 

Roe vs Wade. It's not really Pro Choice or Pro Life. Choice or no choice; life or no life? No. The US Supreme Court is talking about taking away abortion rights, women's rights. People are divided, and angry, and often cruel. I find it hard to believe that we're going backwards here, regressing when we should be progressing (I say we and here because Canadians are not very different from our American neighbours.). I saw several wonderful posts supporting my own position, expressing my own thoughts, and that was good. But, it was still disturbing.

I finally counted my blessings, turned off the world, and headed to choir. 

It took a few minutes to shake off my day, and then I was in my happy place, my blissful hours of choir. Choir night is not just an escape from life, but it's also an embracing of life, a reminder of all the good things. We sing about love and harmony, peace, family, friendship, community, sunshine and stars. We celebrate each other's victories, health, babies, grandbabies, and when we need it we get a comforting hug, a shoulder to lean on.







Thursday, 14 April 2022

Serious Fun With Serious Music

I am very grateful for my childhood experiences with music, with classical music in particular. I hope that young people are getting some good musical experiences these days. 

The amount of classical music I was exposed to by rabbits and other creatures in Muppet or animated form is amazing. What a fun way to broaden children's musical experiences! 

Video games and movie soundtracks continue to provide serious music for all ages, wonderful symphonic orchestral works that play on the "classical" radio stations. Sesame Street is still at it (currently in season 52), introducing classical music to children and their parents along with lots of fun.

When I was teaching English as a Second Language to adults in North York, I had a workshop that I conducted for other teachers called "Serious Fun". I shared games that I used successfully in class to teach and to practise grammar, idioms and other vocabulary, spelling, all kinds of serious things.  The games added much-needed moments of silliness and respite from all of the pressures of being a newcomer to Canada and an adult returning to a classroom. Some of the serious fun included singing. 

Serious Fun is still my thing. I love to have fun with my choir, the YRCC, making sure to have at least one song in every performance that makes people laugh, something cute, something silly and fun. I pepper my commentary with dashes of silliness. We often deal with big, serious themes, and sing grand, moving pieces of music, so everyone needs these moments of release. 

When we rehearse, we need to have fun every week. We work hard learning music that's often in 4-part harmony and challenging. It's important for us to be able to laugh at ourselves, and to release the stress of the difficult passages in the music we're learning. Even more important for our weekly rehearsals is the need to release the stresses of the day, the stresses of life. My choir is Serious Fun like my grammar games!

Serious music, classical music, orchestral works, don't have to be heavy and challenging. Yesterday, Lauren (my friend and YRCC's lovely president) gifted me with an afternoon at the Symphony with her. The TSO (Toronto Symphony Orchestra) presented a concert called Totally 1980s. It was so much fun! We laughed and sang along (Don't worry: the audience was invited to sing and even dance along.) and we were also fascinated and impressed by all the wonderful musicians in the orchestra and the vocalists who performed a super mix of pop, rock, disco, and soundtracks from our youth. What joy; totally my thing!

I recently posted (on Musical Empathy: renatesmusicalempathy.blogspot.com) about my early memories of serious music, entitled "Sesame Street and Cartoons: Iconic Music Memories". I've spoken about the Muppets quite a bit lately, and because they were such a big influence on me, we're doing a Muppet-like version of Good Morning, Starshine rather than a Hair-like version.

One thing I love about Donna, our new accompanist, is that she happily recounts being told by her students that she sounded like Kermit the Frog. I love Kermit and had a Kermit stuffy when I was little. Donna shares my playfulness, and she is seriously trained and seriously talented. I love that she laughs at my silly jokes. I think Serious Fun is Donna's thing too. 

I think everyone should have the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument, and to play that instrument in a large ensemble. I so much enjoyed my band experiences in school! It was a lot of work but so much fun! Any kind of musical performance is a great part of an education. Music should be learned with lots of fun and less judgement, less competition and more silliness. Serious music with serious fun should be compulsory. 

When I watch musicians, I feel great respect for their skills and the investment they've put into making music for us. I'm also grateful for the production, the sound, the staging, the theatre.

I wish every child could also be given experiences at the symphony, the opera, the ballet, and live musical theatre. All of these and big rock concerts, jazz festivals, all kinds of live music mean so much more when you have an understanding of how it works. 



Friday, 4 March 2022

Face the Negatives to Be Positive

"If you know how to handle your pain, your sorrow, and your fear, you know how to create happiness."

*Breathing in, I am aware of a painful feeling arising.
Breathing out, I release the painful feeling.*

I recently read Good Citizens: Creating Enlightened Society by Thích Nhất Hạnh. There were so many quotable moments! I wanted to write everything down, wanted to highlight most of every page in yellow. Those two quotes above are the things that stood out to me at this reading. I've written a couple of times about feeling the opposite of Pollyanna lately. I've had my positivity challenged a lot in the past couple years, in the past weeks and the past couple days. 

Here's how Amazon describes the book:

In Good Citizens, Thich Nhat Hanh lays out the foundation for an international solidarity movement based on a shared sense of compassion, mindful consumption, and right action. Following these principles, he believes, is the path to world peace. The book is based on our increased global interconnectedness and subsequent need for harmonious communication and a shared ethic to make our increasingly globalized world a more peaceful place. The book will be appreciated by people of all faiths and cultural backgrounds.

World peace can seem to be an impossible goal when individuals and nations are selfish and cruel, attacking innocent strangers, attacking neighbours, and even their own kin, destroying property and lives. Yet, here is a path to world peace. Look around and see the writers, musicians, artists, protesters, groups and individuals, sharing messages of peace and support in response to the attacks on Ukraine. There is hope for all of us, international solidarity is possible, and there is a path for me to take to achieve inner peace right here and now.  Breathe in; breathe out. 

Friday, 18 February 2022

Another Snow Storm- Windrow Positivity

Windrows are the piles of snow that the street plow leaves at the end of your driveway. People get so mad at the plows for these! Nonsense! 

The plows are just doing what plows do. I'm grateful for the plows and grateful for my strong body and snow moving strategies. I'll share some of my strategies for staying positive and dealing with the snow.

Let the storm rage on.  The windrows never bothered me anyway. Sing that like Elsa.

Here's a picture of Dexter. He's our beautiful German Shorthaired Pointer. I'm there behind him, in my blue puffy jacket with my big snow scooper. It's actually called a sleigh shovel. I looked it up. I highly recommend this kind of snow shovel. But, you'll also need a good small ergonomic lifting one. We regularly use 3 different shovels. 

Don't worry, we're on a little court, no traffic












When you need to shovel the driveway after a snow storm, make a plan, have your tools handy, and listen to your body. Don't wear your heaviest gear. You'll work yourself warm. If possible, have a buddy to help. If you don't have a helper, consider doing half now and half later, after a rest and some tea. 

Push straight ahead as much as possible. Try not to twist your body. Clear a track straight down the middle first. This opens up the way for you, and the dog, to get to the road. More importantly, it divides the task into two smaller ones. I use the scoop for that. You can drag scoopfuls of snow down the road a ways (don't leave it on the road) so that it's not all right by your driveway. Get the snow to the edges and dump/push it up first, and then do lifting later if necessary. 

When you have to lift, don't lift too much at once, and don't repeat the same motion too often. Don't lift with the big scooper! Use a smallish shovel with an ergonomic handle. Keep your knees loose, legs strong. Listen to your body, and if it complains, change your movements. Maybe walk to the other end of the driveway, do a little stretching and start from a different angle. You'll want to lift straight as much as possible, but you'll end up leading with one side. Switch sides every few strokes. Don't worry if you're not doing it systematically or beautifully. At the end, you can clean it up so it looks perfect if you want. Pay attention to your body. 

IMPORTANT: If you're smiling and loving the snow, you'll have less tension in your neck and shoulders, and generally better use of all of your muscles. 

Sing while you shovel. 

Send out some grateful love to the snow plow operators who work so hard! 

Send out gratitude and love to the waste collectors who have to navigate through all the snow and find, pick up, empty, and put back everyone's recycling boxes and green bins. 

When you're done, look at what you've accomplished and feel strong, skillful, and successful. Reward yourself with hot chocolate or tea and maybe a little chocolate, and some dog cuddles inside on the couch.



Thursday, 27 January 2022

Not Giving up My Shovel for a Snow Blower

We've had lots of snow this year but I still don't want a snow blower. Our neighbours who have snow blowers have already used them a few times this winter and I guess they're feeling pretty good. 

I've been spending time on the Blue Zones website, bluezones.com, getting inspiration and support for my healthy long life. One of the things they recommend to improve your life and longevity is to use hand tools and equipment more. Clearing the driveway with a snow shovel, they say, gives you a healthy and productive outdoor workout. For me, that's just part of it.

We're having a very cold and snowy winter (it's January 27th, 2022) and I'm happy, one of the few people you know who loves snow and cold. No, I'm not a skier and I don't like snowmobiles. I just think snow is beautiful. It's exciting when it's falling and peaceful afterwards. I walked Dexter this morning and I loved the sound of the snow crunching under my boots, which I could hear because it's so quiet, the world muffled by snow. I have good boots, a good coat, hats, mitts, all the gear I need. When it's minus 20 degrees Celsius, I'm fine. The world looks shiny and clean and the air is crisp. 

I'm lucky to live in a suburban neighbourhood where the streets and sidewalks are excellently cleared by the town. (Newmarket, Ontario) We just have to clear our walkways and driveways on our properties. Many of the driveways fit four cars comfortably. When I'm done clearing the snow from my driveway, I feel really good: exhausted and accomplished. It's a good workout. When the snow is heavy and there's a lot of it, it's also a good puzzle, figuring out were to put it all and how to push more than lift and how to make sure I don't hurt myself. The windrow that the snowplow makes at the end of the driveway is especially challenging and can take more time to shovel than the whole driveway sometimes. I like to see how good my driveway and walkway look when I'm done. 

When I'm done, I just hang the shovel up. It takes up little space and I have room in my garage for my car. I don't have to store a snowblower or worry about servicing it. My shovel is quiet and clean, very environmentally friendly. As long as I can, I will use a snow shovel.  

snowy scene outside my window


Saturday, 22 January 2022

Giving up: Sometimes the show does not go on, and it's okay

 Don't give up! We're not quitters! 

Keep going! The show must go on!

We've had enough of this. 

It's time to take a break and say, "Stop it! I just can't!"

We're tired and we can't do it all. We can't do it all when everything we do is a struggle. Our teams are tired, our support systems are tired, the back-up singers, back-up drivers, back-up shift workers are all sick, and tired, and can't.

I'm tired of looking for the bright side and smiling in the hopes that the smile will turn real. 

We're two years in to the pandemic and we're all tired of this. We've reached our limits.

It's okay if you decide to go to bed early (and sleep in late too).

It's okay if you miss the video call, or call in sick.

Leave the task unfinished; do the rest after some rest.

Thank you, Adele, for postponing your Vegas show a couple of days ago! I'm grateful to you for showing your very real and understandable level of stress, and for showing your gratitude to your fans for understanding. Of course they get it. There's grace in letting go.

Thank you, everyone, for your moments of grace in these difficult times. We will try when we can. When we're feeling up to it, we'll smile and we'll do all the things!

But, we can't be expected to keep it up all the time. 

Forgive yourself and forgive others when we fail to meet expectations. 

Lower your expectations a little for now. It's not forever and it's not always. 

Adele announcing Vegas show not going on



Friday, 7 January 2022

Feeling the Opposite of Pollyanna

Is the opposite of a Pollyanna a curmudgeon? Whatever you call it, that's how I'm feeling.

I'm done playing the glad game. I'm not trying to find something to be glad about these days. I'm sitting deep in my grouchy couch feeling only like crying or cussing. 

Since Christmas, I've been experiencing something like the post-show blues I get after a choir performance. It's happened before. There were years when I'd be sick in bed for a week after Christmas. Once all the hoopla was over, a virus would hit and I'd be forced to stop. 

This year, the hoopla was cancelled again. It was worse this year because I had hoped to have a real Christmas. I had hopes and plans for Christmas 2021. I planned to host my side, a dinner for 12 for Christmas Day, and my best friend's family, a dinner for 8, on Boxing Day. Christmas Eve was supposed to be church at church and then out to my husband's side. Church was the best ever, a service planned and led by my talented Vix with her guitar, Christmas dinner was wonderful, even if it was just 4 of us. Zoom calls were lovely. I was fine, but now I'm not.

Usually, I'm a sunny person, but these days, I'm feeling overwhelmed with negative emotions. Here is my current "top 10": sadness, anger, disappointment, shame, frustration, impatience, repulsion, fear, worry, and despair.

I've had good moments, even good days. It will flip back again. I'll have bad days and bad moments. This too will pass. 

This too shall pass.










from Wikipedia:

Curmudgeon: a person (especially an old man) who is easily annoyed or angered and who often complains.

Synonyms for curmudgeon: bear, bellyacher, complainer, crab, crank, croaker, crosspatch, fusser, griper, grouch, grouser, growler, grumbler, grump, murmurer, mutterer, sourpuss, whiner.








Monday, 13 December 2021

Selective Hearing and Selective Memory: Survival

My selective memory is a natural survival mechanism that I thought I had no control over. I became aware that my memory has selected to delete some things when I tried to remember something about a bad time in my life. I've blocked whole chunks of my life from access. I have only the smallest snippet of a memory of my father's funeral, and a tiny fragment of the drive to his burial. It's selective amnesia, actually, isn't it?

What I've come to understand is that I might not have been aware of it in the past, might not have considered it, but I do have some control over what I remember. I can control my selective listening and watching. I can tune things out. And, I think that's what happened with those past things that I can't retrieve. I shut my eyes, walked away and shut out the world. I put the music on loud, sang along, danced, and forgot. I do that now quite frequently. When I have the choice, I select and deselect.

When one pays careful attention to something, mindful of all one's senses in the moment, strong memories are made which can be retrieved easily. A small thing can trigger those memories, a smell, a taste, a melody, the fabric of your dress or maybe the colour. Drink in the good stuff, sniff and taste, feel with attention, and fill yourself with all the sensations of a happy moment. Trigger that.

I have to pay more and better attention to all the good stuff. I feel some regret for not paying enough attention to wonderful things in the past. I have forgotten too much. I'm lucky that I do avoid spending time on negative things, and I have ways of redirecting myself towards positivity. During this pandemic, however, I've spent much more time than ever before dwelling in feelings of sadness, anger, disappointment, shame, frustration, impatience, repulsion, regret, fear, worry, and despair. 

Twice though, in difficult circumstances this past year, I was very much comforted, and able to comfort others, with the knowledge that in time we would forget. The emotional and physical pain and the details of the current predicament would not only end in the near future but would also be difficult, maybe even impossible, to remember in the more distant future. We are counting our blessings.

On a light note (pun intended), I think that people who think that the best music was made in their formative years forget all the music that was considered simple, shocking, or just ugly back then. They also choose not to hear all the good new music that is being made now. Their parents did the same thing. Every generation has parents saying, "What is this horrible stuff you're listening to?" They don't really pay attention to current music. The things that are shocking to their ears stick out and offend. There are always comfortable "oldies" stations for them, old hits or "classic" rock.  I find it funny when I'm listening to an oldies station and they play what was considered an edgy song when I was younger. Looking back, it is so tame! I'm glad that I understand this and I am open to enjoying and appreciating (most of) the music my children love. 






Thursday, 2 December 2021

Wearing Your Heart on Your Sleeve

I wear my heart on my sleeve. I don't have a poker face, can't play those games.

My feelings are often stronger than my self-control. I'm lucky I can hold my tongue, mostly, but I blush and I cry and I laugh out loud. I occasionally blurt out a four-letter-word, but I also have been heard yelling: "Four-Letter-Word!" It's rarely a problem. 

I wish some people would be nicer, or would at least hold their tongues, and refrain from plastering negativity on stickers on their cars, on social media, or on their shirts. 

There are kind and supportive messages to be found. I recently did a little "window shopping" at Torrid (a plus size clothing store that I like), you know, where you just click around and add things to the shopping cart that you wish you could buy, but can't, or wouldn't? There were lots of nice t-shirts and sweatshirts with really fun stuff on them. I would wear this one, that says EVERY BODY IS BEAUTIFUL.










There was another one that I really wanted. It said PSST! YOU'RE DOING GREAT! 

It's coming on Christmas, so one of the seasonal tops said ALL MAMA NEEDS IS A SILENT NIGHT.

I'm happy to see that we can share our love and support for each other with our clothing, wearing our hearts on our sleeves, or chests, I guess.

These shirts reminded me of those kiosks in the malls that sell t-shirts with sports or band themes and pictures of skeletons and poop. I try to avoid them. When I was young, they had nicer kiosks where they would put your name on the back while you walked around window shopping (the kind where you're actually going into the store, but not putting anything in a cart. "No, thanks. I'm just looking."). I think they used the Cooper Black font. I remember lots of yellow smiley faces and Have a Nice Day. But, that might be my weird selective memory (another subject for another time). 


Monday, 22 November 2021

Good Attitude Extends Life


Research shows that Positive Thinking prevents heart attacks. A good attitude extends your life. And, if you're not an old Pollyanna like me, you can turn things around; you don't have to be born this way. You can become a happier, more positive person by building relationships, expressing gratitude, practicing kindness, dropping grudges, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep, according to The Greater Good Science Center*. 

    “Happiness takes work,” as Lyubomirsky says in a Greater Good video. “The good news is that the activities that foster happiness and well-being can become habitual over time, and so once they become habitual, the effort decreases.”


There is a lot of advice for increasing happiness on the internet, not just here on my blog. Here's what Cleveland Heart Lab** says:

Negative thinking is often just a bad habit that you can change. Here are some ways to develop a sunnier outlook:

Practice gratitude.
Counting your blessings helps you have more positive thoughts. Some people keep a notebook and jot down the things they are grateful for. Others say thanks to others as they go about their daily lives.

Hang out with positive people.
Optimism rubs off. Being around optimists can help you think like they do.

Review what went right at the end of the day.
What did you enjoy? What made you feel appreciated? This practice can help you have positive thoughts before you sleep, which affects your first thoughts in the morning.

Turn off the news.
The current climate of politics can make it hard to be optimistic. Being informed is important, but try to limit the amount of time you spend getting news.

Just smile.
It can change your mood and also helps you connect with others. Plus, smiling can lower your blood pressure and stress hormones, which are also good for your heart.

Learning to think like an optimist takes practice. But it’s well worth it for your heart and well-being!

Here's a short list (with links) of some of the numerous posts and articles on this subject.  
 


Monday, 15 November 2021

The Glad Game - Today’s Version

Today's version of Pollyanna's Glad Game is an Attitude of Gratitude.

In any negative situation, if you look hard enough, you can find something to be glad about. Pollyanna was taught this coping strategy by her father before he died. They called it the Glad Game. 

This Psychology Today article* from 2019 looks at research on gratitude's effects on wellbeing. Keeping a gratitude journal, or writing a daily list of things that you're thankful for, or performing some kind of regular gratitude exercise, has been shown to improve mental and physical health. The author suggests that Pollyanna is misunderstood, that this kind of positivity is very healthy and should not be seen as unrealistic or negative. Yes! I'm happy I found someone who so clearly agrees with me.

Here's a quote from that article:

    See if you can find something to be glad about and grateful for in every situation, no matter how bad things seem, and if someone dares to call you a Pollyanna, smile and say thank you.

I do see how going too far with this can become toxic positivity. If you don't give space for other people to feel their negativity, and insist that they find a good side to their terrible circumstances, then you might be called names, and, Pollyanna wouldn't be the worst of them. We always want to be gentle with people who are suffering. 

Make this practice about you, about your own way of processing things that happen, to you or to others. 


*The Real Story of Pollyanna and Her Secret Happiness Game
 by Jennice Vilhauer Ph.D. 
June 30, 2019



Tuesday, 9 November 2021

I Choose Real, Really Good: Real Food, Real Books, Real Live Music

It occurred to me that I have a preference for real things. Usually, if there's a choice between a real thing or a contrived or artificial thing, I choose the simpler and natural one. 

I avoid food supplements, pills and shakes or smoothies as meals, and things that have unnaturally long shelf lives.

I feel especially good when my exercise is gardening or cleaning, when my movement arises naturally from an active day. A live Zumba class is better than a recorded one. My elliptical sits quiet. 

I am pining for real choir. I want to see my choir singing shoulder-to-shoulder with our accompanist playing our accompaniments on a real piano. That's really, really good. The keyboard is okay, but just because it's practical. Recordings will do in a pinch. Zoom Choir is just a necessary, very poor substitute.

Live music and live sports events are so much more satisfying than YouTube, right?

Reading a book on an electronic device is not real, not preferable, but okay.

I need face-to-face friendship. Yesterday, I had lunch in a restaurant with girlfriends and it was so good! Talking about life with a kind hand on your arm is invaluable. Real live friends are priceless.

I choose real when I can.









 



Tuesday, 26 October 2021

Positive Thinking when So Much is Negative

When so much around us is negative, how do we manage to stay positive?

Some of us are born positive. Positive thinking comes easy to us. 
Others need some help. 

I'm one of those annoyingly positive people, but I have days (or lately, months, years) when I find myself in a dark place and I feel like staying there, getting comfortable there in the discomfort. 

When I need help getting back to the light, I have lots of tools in my toolbox. I'm sharing my list of healthy strategies for coping with negativity, which I'm calling my lighten-up toolbox.

My toolbox should look different from yours, partly because I'm naturally inclined to positivity, but also because we all have our preferences. Lots of people drink tea to feel better or knit, for example, which I don't choose. If you have "things" like knitting or colouring gear that you can put in a basket by your favourite chair, that would be a great lighten-up toolbox. You can throw in some index cards with keywords on them to remind yourself of things to do that will help. An internet search of "coping toolbox" will give you lots of ideas. 


Writing this list out here on my blog has helped me to remember the things that work for me. Maybe I should add making lists to the list. 

My Lighten-Up Toolbox
  • Smiles (I put on a fake smile, then rest my face in that smile, breathe, ahhh)
  • Water (Sometimes I'm cranky because I'm thirsty and just a glass of water does the trick.)
  • Hugs (I hug anyone, everyone, especially my family and my dog-  COVID has been so hard!)
  • Mindful Breathing (I'm really good at breathing, because I sing and I have played wind instruments.)
  • Reframing Thoughts (Like Pollyanna, I can usually find the good side, the silver lining on anything.)
  • Redirecting or Leaving Noxious Conversations or Situations (I naturally avoid conflict, and it's usually a healthy thing. Avoid news, angry people, uncomfortable topics.)
  • Walks (Walking the dog makes me feel good, and when I'm outside, I notice how beautiful trees are, and what a nice neighbourhood I live in.)
  • Guided Meditation (I use the Calm app, love Tamara Levitt.)
  • Singing (I sing along to Taylor Swift, or Elton John, a playlist made by Victoria, Christmas carols, 80s tunes. Sometimes singing leads to dancing)
  • Dancing (I put on the Apple Music Dance Workout Playlist, close the curtains, start with a jog, and do some aerobics moves, but also silly things that just feel good. Sometimes dancing leads to singing) 
  • Pizza (I hesitate to put food on this list because it's a big, messy thing, but some foods are just happier than others. Pizza is one of many for me. I'm sure there are healthier ones.) 
  • Other bits and pieces (Just like a real toolbox, this one has lots of random stuff rattling around in it. Sometimes it's a surprise what I find in here when I'm rifling through the regular things.)




Thursday, 21 October 2021

Don't Hesitate to Meditate or Medicate

When stress is bad, it's bad. It doesn't just feel bad in the moment, but can also have lasting and far-reaching effects. 

   "Cumulative lifetime stress accelerates epigenetic aging, a predictor of the rate of biological aging," says Perla Kaliman, Ph.D., a professor at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya in Spain. 

That quote comes from the Shape article that I saved and decided to write about. We need to protect ourselves from stress and deal with our tension to stay healthy. They recommend meditation as the way to protect ourselves from the damaging effects of stress. If you take care of your diet and exercise and add meditation, you should be good. 

This is the fifth and final post of my five-part series on slowing down ageing according to that Shape article that I liked.  I will not stop thinking about and talking about staying healthy as we age though. There is so much information out there and so much advice from everyone about what we should or shouldn't do as we get older! 

My posts parts 1 and 2 were about diet: here’s a link to the Omega-3 post and a link to the frequent small meals post. Parts 3 and 4 were about movement: here's a link to the one about being active every day and a link to the one about avoiding sitting too much.  

    #5 Deal with your tension 

A brief Google search identified a number of signs of stress which to me sounded an awful lot like symptoms of menopause and ageing. But then, Google also said that stress is really just about change:

    Stress is a normal human reaction that happens to everyone. In fact, the human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. When you experience changes or challenges (stressors), your body produces physical and mental responses. That's stress. Stress responses help your body adjust to new situations.

So, we're okay getting stressed if it's a passing thing, like the stress you feel before you go into a job interview. We can face all kinds of natural and normal stressors every day. But, if it's going on too long, like during a pandemic or the years of perimenopause and then menopause, and you don't do anything to take care of it, then you can experience some serious consequences:

  • Pain and tension
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Mood swings
  • Compulsive behavior
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Low sex drive 

If you're feeling some of those serious consequences, talk to your doctor. Get some good, reliable advice. It's quite possible that medication will help you. Are you more likely to take meds for pain and muscle tension than for anxiety? Mental Health is a big issue, especially now during the pandemic, and we need to accept help. We need to accept that laughter is good, but medicine is sometimes the best medicine.  

I consulted the CMHA and the NIMH, the Canadian and American government health departments' websites, and found lots of useful information on Mental Health and stress. These links will take you directly to pages I liked. I recommend spending some time on the CMHA and NIMH websites to find things that speak to you, tips that make sense to you (and, really, talk to a health professional if you're experiencing serious stress symptoms). 

Diet, Exercise, Sleep are all the first factors mentioned everywhere. Seems like these are the things to focus on to manage your stress. If you get your daily routines of sleep and activity and eating in order, then your mind and body will be able to tackle things that come along. But, sometimes that's not enough, and there are lots of ways-including meditation-to deal with your tension. Here are a few:

  • Avoid tobacco and nicotine products (so happy that I never started smoking)
  • Learn relaxation techniques like meditation (I downloaded an app)
  • Reduce your stress triggers (I left my job)
  • Examine your values and live by them (this writing is part of my values exercise)
  • Set realistic goals and expectations (don't add stress about failing)
  • Laugh, especially with friends (community is important)
  • Sing and dance without inhibition (my favourite)
You've heard that laughter is the best medicine. It's often true for me that laughing about things reduces their power to hurt me. In general, music is my best medicine. Music helps me to calm down or rise up to a situation, and singing helps me to breathe regularly when I'm losing control. I try to have regular dance parties in my living room, with the lights off and curtains drawn so I can let loose. When I was working, I used meditation daily, and often meditate still. Don't hesitate to meditate.




 






Monday, 18 October 2021

Inviting Inspiration

 “Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.” – Pablo Picasso

 I'm keeping my phone out of reach today and playing with words and pictures and colours. I took Picasso's quote to heart and already I've had a few good ideas and created an Instagram post. 

I'm happy to have time to spend this way, investing in myself.



Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Get Up Out of Our Fancy Chairs: Quitting Sitting

I’m trying to pay attention to how much I sit, and just getting up and away from my screens helps. There is always some cleaning and organizing to do inside and outside, and I can always go for a walk. When I’m feeling energetic, I can put on a workout video (I have the FitOn app) or some music to dance to (I like the Apple Music Dance Workout). Even when I can’t think of anything, I can make myself a cup of tea and stand at a window to drink it. 

I’ve been thinking and writing about an article from Shape  that listed 5 ways to slow down or avoid some of the degeneration that is associated with ageing. This is now the fourth point and my fourth post in the series.

The first 2 were about diet: here’s a link to the Omega-3 post and a link to the frequent small meals post.  The third recommendation was this to work out every day (link to my post) and this one today is also about movement.

#4 Stay on your feet

Sitting is bad. “Sitting is the New Smoking” is a popular phrase coined by Dr. James Levine, director of Mayo Clinic at Arizona State University. I hear it all the time. Quitting sitting will be everyone's top New Year's Resolution for 2022. 

The Canada Public Health recommendation on exercise addressed this issue, stating that our goal should be to limit our daily sedentary time to 8 hours or less, including no more than 3 hours of recreational screen time and breaking up long periods of sitting.

You might have a fancy office chair that's ergonomically designed, and that's excellent. If you don't, you (or your boss) should invest in one. Here’s something you can read about that.  Still, you should make sure you get out of it regularly, like every half-hour or so.

Sitting in an Ergonomic Chair

If you have a sedentary job, can you do some standing or walking while you work? When I worked at the office (CWNC), I had an adjustable standing desk and an anti-fatigue mat to stand on. It was excellent. During the pandemic, when I was working at a desk in my bedroom, I frequently went downstairs to make tea, and consequently had frequent bathroom visits, to force myself out of my chair. I was always sure to go to the kitchen, at home or at the office, for my lunch break. There are lots of reasons not to have lunch at your desk. Whenever possible, I would eat outdoors to get some vitamin D and a really good break from work.

Do you sit at a computer or laptop at home in your spare time too, on social media or playing games or watching videos, or do you sit and watch television, Netflix? Can you change your habits to reduce your sitting? Can you take your kids, grandkids, or pet to the park, shoot some baskets, or join a class or a team? Is there a bar or restaurant in walking distance from your home or workplace? Can you watch your show while you do laundry? Cooking and cleaning provide opportunities to stretch and move. Can you think of hobbies that get you out of your seat? 

When the pandemic gets under control, it will be easier to go out and do things. Until then, do what you can. Small movement improvements will help you quit your sitting habit. Even having a cup of tea while standing at a window will make you feel better and get you out of your seat.

Screenshot of my favouite playlist for dancing

 

 


Friday, 24 September 2021

Keeping Moving- Thankful for my Healthy Ageing Body

 I recently wrote about changes I want to make in my diet. Some days more than others, I feel that I am getting older, so I’m looking at making changes. I was partly inspired, partly validated by an article from Shape. 

The article listed 5 ways to slow down or avoid some of the degeneration that is associated with ageing. The first 2 were about diet. I am working on increasing the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids that I consume (link to Omega 3 post) and eating more frequent, smaller meals (link to eating patterns post) to prevent degeneration at a cellular level.  The third recommendation was this:

#3 Work out every day

Exercise has many of the same benefits as those dietary changes, including preventing diseases and maintaining or improving cognitive function. We need to be active and stay active. Check out the list by America’s National Institute on Aging on the benefits of including 4 types of exercise- Endurance, Strength, Balance, and Flexibility- in your active lifestyle.

Shape suggests that “Thirty minutes or more of moderate to intense cardio and resistance exercise most days of the week” should be our goal.

The Canadian Government (Department of Health) includes exercise in its recommended targets for daily movement. I like how they addresses the fact that we sit at our screens too much but believe that we don’t have time to exercise. They agree with Shape that we must be physically active every day, but don’t say “work out”. There is a target for how much time to spend on screens and sedentary activities. There are separate documents for various age groups. Adults aged 18-64 are advised to be physically active each and every day, minimize sedentary behaviour, and achieve sufficient sleep for good health. Here’s what Canada says our targets should be:

CANADIAN 24-HOUR MOVEMENT GUIDELINES:

A healthy 24 hours includes:

  •  Performing a variety of types and intensities of physical activity, which includes
    • Moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activities such that there is an accumulation of at least 150 minutes per week
    • Muscle strengthening activities using major muscle groups at least twice a week
    • Several hours of light physical activities, including standing

  •  Limiting sedentary time to 8 hours or less, which includes
    • No more than 3 hours of recreational screen time, and
    • Breaking up long periods of sitting as often as possible

    •   Getting 7 to 9 hours of good-quality sleep on a regular basis, with consistent bed and wake-up times

     There is a lot of information on the Canada Public Health site.  I recommend you check it out. I like this page with tips for older adults. There are ideas for what kinds of activities to try to do and how they benefit you. It suggests doing more of activities you enjoy, like dancing and playing with grandchildren, or a playing a sport that you like, and adding things you can do without thinking too much about it, like parking farther from entrances so that you walk more and taking stairs instead of elevators or escalators. It reminds me of eating food instead of taking supplements. You need to move, but you don’t have to get that movement from a HIIT class or on some exercise equipment. Here's one of the things that Public Health page says:

    Aerobic activity, like pushing a lawn mower, taking a dance class, or biking to the store, is continuous movement that makes you feel warm and breathe deeply.

    I will pay attention to how much time I spend sitting, and will take more turns mowing the lawn, maybe do the cleaning more vigorously, walk the dog more, park farther away from entrances, dance more, and find and seize opportunities to move as I go about my days. I will also do more of my workout videos because I like them. I’ve already started a morning walk habit and most evenings dance or work out, or walk some more. I am establishing work routines and they’re under control at the moment. I’m grateful for my healthy body and I will take care of it. 


    Main Street, Newmarket, is a great place to walk.
    A break on the Pride bench. 



    Wednesday, 22 September 2021

    Sesame Street- Always Groovy- on Healthy Eating

     I've always loved Sesame Street and the Muppets. I watched it when I was little and when my children were little and whenever I see Sesame Street videos, I love them. Part of the Pollyanna thing for me is that my inner child is not even trying to hide; she's always right here bouncing around and looking at the world in awe and wonder.

    Today, on my Facebook feed, I saw this. And, I have to share it. Elmo and Abby Cadabby, inspired by the rhythm of their crunching, sing about eating fruits and vegetables and drinking water. The band is so cool!



    Wednesday, 15 September 2021

    Just Some Pollyanna Words- Optimistic Me

    Some of the words related to OPTIMISTIC are about light. I like that. 

    Sunny, sunbeamy, glowing, beaming, lighthearted and lightsome are some words that describe an optimistic person, a ray of sunshine. Starry-eyed is another. I close my eyes and think "starry-eyed" and it's a floaty-fun feeling. I want to be more starry-eyed.

    Buoyant makes me happy. I float and swim well and I'm optimistic. Bouncy, bubbly, and effervescent also feel good. When I'm happy, I do bounce and sometimes joy bubbles over. When I was small, some of my older siblings' friends called me Bubbles. I've always had a sunny disposition. 

    Upbeat is another word I like. The upbeat in music often signals that something is going to start. I know the importance of the upbeat and I emphasize it in my conducting. When I'm in front of my choir, and we're singing, I can't help but feel upbeat. It's my bliss.

    I understand that one can be overly optimistic, and when I was called a Pollyanna, the people meant that they saw my way of thinking as blithe, thoughtless, or panglossian, deluded. I don't see myself that way. I feel bad for people who think that the world is not a nice place and people are untrustworthy and evil by nature and I am naïve to think otherwise. I think otherwise. I think that ugliness is the exception, and even then, it's sometimes a matter of perspective. 

    I do have my bad days (and months and even years) when I feel like the light is dim and I become gloomy, dispirited. Throughout the COVID pandemic, I've often felt unstable, mercurial, as my personality swings between gloomy and sunny. My natural disposition is positive. The unnatural social isolation along with the pervasive fear has hurt me, but I am surviving.

    I think that this way that I am helps me to be resilient and it attracts all kinds of other positive things and people. I choose to sparkle.



    Love this image. I found it here.