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Meditate Regularly for a Great 2009!

Meditate Regularly for a Great 2009!

pregnantmeditate

    I was a sporadic meditator at best for years, only to really commit to meditation when, just after turning 39, I discovered a mass in my right breast.

    From the point of discovery of the mass to getting the necessary tests, waiting for results, waiting for surgery, waiting to see if the newly diagnosed cancer had spread to lymph nodes, waiting to see what treatment I would have, and so much more, there were times that I didn’t think I could physically tolerate much more anxiety. I knew I had to do something to manage the stress and that I would need to make it a way of life. One of the weapons I chose was meditation.

    Now before this, my thoughts about meditation followed the lines of, Everybody says that this is a healthy thing. I probably should be doing it. Some of the people who talk about meditation seem a little flaky. I guess I sit here and watch my breathing. Am I doing this right? Is this doing anything at all? Oh, look, there’s another article on the benefits of meditation. I guess I should give it another try.

    After the diagnosis of cancer, I began meditating regularly. Sometimes I missed a day or two, but I kept returning to the practice. What I found was that, while I didn’t notice results overnight, eventually I noticed a few improvements:

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    • A calmer mind. If my mind was frantically hopping from thought-to-thought (“monkey mind” or “wild mind”) at the beginning of a meditation session, by the end, it was always at least slightly calmer.
    • A brief rest from being anywhere other than the present. When my mind was filled with anxiety, it was always about that moment of time in the future that I might die or hear that I’d lost my job or something else. While in meditation, time and thought ceased.
    • Increased awareness of mental and physical state. I became more aware of my emotional reactions. A benefit of meditation is that it can help you almost step outside of yourself during a crisis and note things like “my stomach feels tight” or “my agitation over my boss’s email is really escalating.” Meditation seems to make you more aware of the choice to slow down and choose your reaction rather than just be helplessly tossed by patterned waves of emotion.

    Fear and the Unknown

    I had the opportunity to speak with spiritual counselor and meditation teacher Don Simmons about meditation, and he echoed my findings about meditation and fear. “Meditation can help someone move through fear. When you deal with the unknown, meditation helps you observe everything that takes place without judgment. Then you move from reaction to action.”

    Right now, most of us are dealing with a great deal of the “unknown.” With ubiquitous reports of a failing economy, layoffs, and families in despair, we may wonder if we’re going to be the next casualty.

    As Don told me, meditation enables you to tell yourself what is real and what is not. When you focus on breathing, you are focusing on one of the most basic ingredients of life. You are silently reminded that “My fears are not reality. I am here, right now. This is what truly matters–that I am alive, that I have wellness, that I feel good.” A wise friend once told me, “any time you worry, you are living someplace other than the present.”

    Surprise: Meditation Helps with Productivity!

    I would wager that many interested in productivity don’t immediately think of meditation. After all, you’re just sitting there, aren’t you? How is that productive?

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    What I have found is that there can be as much false economy with time and energy as there can be with money. If I work four, 16-hour days in an attempt to get ahead, I’ll ultimately wind up more tired and less productive than if I maintain balanced days.

    In discussing this phenomena with Don Simmons, he described humans as having a masculine and feminine side. “It’s not about being straight or gay; it’s about listening and talking, hearing and creation.” Your feminine side is that which dreams, incubates, and expands. Your masculine side is the action and manifestation. Don illustrated this with a boat: The rudder (feminine) guides the boat and asks the question “where do I want to go?” whereas the  engine (masculine) follows through with the physical action to get you to your destination.

    The key, says Don, is to be in perfect harmony.

    And surely you’ve experienced harmony. Do you remember a time in which everything just seemed to click? You were “in flow.” You seemed to have the Midas touch. You were on top of the world! This balance, this flow, is necessary for continued productivity without exhaustion.

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    So How Do I Meditate?

    I have a few techniques that I use, but the most basic is simply to sit in a chair or on the floor and focus on my breathing. I use a digital timer that I set for 10 or 15 minutes. What does it mean to focus on your breathing? Literally, focus on each breath as it enters your nose, slowly expands your lungs, and then leaves your body. Breathe naturally. If you wish, you can tailor this to your desires, such as saying silently, “I breathe in peace; I exhale stress.” This is a simple technique but very effective. Later you can become more advanced and read about hand positions (mudras), sitting positions, etc., but they are unnecessary for a successful beginning meditation practice.

    What is absolutely necessary to meditate:

    1. Choose a position that will respect your practice and keep you from falling asleep. Honor your body and bring integrity to your practice. Don says that “when you are in meditation, you are meeting yourself.” If you were meeting someone you respect, you would likely make sure your body is clean and neat and dressed in clean clothes. You wouldn’t slouch.
    2. Try to meditate daily. Meditation, like learning a language, isn’t for the weekend warrior. It is better to have short sessions of 5-10 minutes daily than sporadic, long sessions.

    How Do I Know I’m Doing it Right?

    Did you fall asleep? Did you get up before your time was up? Do you feel at least slightly better after meditation than you did before? You’re doing it right. The goal is to simply focus on your breathing, releasing thoughts as they come. Attempt to stay in a state of compassion and nonjudgment.

    Don shared an interesting illustration of work he has done as an animal trainer. As soon as the dog finally performed the trick, he was rewarded, and the training for the day abruptly ended. Why? Because the dog “got” it. You want to end on a positive note. Essentially, “you are training your mind for success,” says Don.

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    Training your mind for success–an idea that’s absolutely in harmony with productivity! And If you still feel meditation is a little too “out there” for you, then consider the recent research that reveals actual physical changes in the brains of those who meditate compared with those who don’t. Here are a few supportive articles and sites that may help convince you that meditation is a worthwhile habit:

    The Benefits of Meditation – Psychology Today

    For Stress Reduction, Just Say Ommm – CNN

    How Monks Find Their Happy Groove – CNN

    The Mystic Path – Don Simmons

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    Last Updated on March 30, 2020

    Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

    Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

    Feeling tired all the time?

    Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

    I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

    Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

    If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

    In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

    What Happens When You’re Too Tired

    If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

    Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

    • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
    • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
    • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
    • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
    • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
    • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
    • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

    Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

    Unfortunately, yes!

    Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

    Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

    Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

    Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

    Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

    Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

    1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
    2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
    3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

    The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

    It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

    Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

    Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

    If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

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    Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

    Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

    But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

    Symptoms of fatigue include:

    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Low stamina
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Anxiety
    • Low motivation

    These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

    Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

    How Much Sleep Is Enough?

    The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

    Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

    So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

    The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

    Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

    Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

    If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

    And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

    It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

    4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

    Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

    1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
    2. Exercising regularly
    3. Using stressbusters
    4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

    So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

    After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

    In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

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    I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

    Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

    • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
    • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
    • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
    • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

    The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

    And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

    But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

    L — Living Healthy

    Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

    So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

    In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

    As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

    Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

    1. Unplug

    Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

    So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

    2. Unwind

    Do something to relax.

    Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

    3. Get Comfortable

    Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

    Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

    Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

    Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

    If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

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    Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

    This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

    E — Exercise

    Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

    That’s what happened in my case.

    But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

    As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

    My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

    That made sense to me.

    So, I decided to swim.

    I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

    Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

    Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

    So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

    If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

    A — Attitude

    Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

    When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

    Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

    Breathing.

    But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

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    Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

    1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
    2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
    3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
    4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
    5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
    6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

    This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

    When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

    Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

    N — Nutrition

    Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

    If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

    Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

    For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

    Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

    Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

    1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
    2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
    3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
    4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
    5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
    6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
    7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
    8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
    9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

    Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

    That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

    Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

    The Bottom Line

    If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

    If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

    If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

    • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
    • Regular Exercise You Love
    • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
    • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

    Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

    More Tips to Help You Rest Better

    Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
    [2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
    [3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
    [4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
    [5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
    [6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
    [7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
    [8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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