Holiday Survival Guide

The Holidays are upon us! Thanksgiving has passed and we are welcoming the onslaught of holiday parties with Family, Food, and Cheer… Though if we are honest most of us have a love/hate relationship with the holidays.

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Love the family time → hate how family knows how to push all the right buttons

Love the food → hate how clothes fit later

Love the cheer →  but who can be happy all the time?

Thankfully, I have devised tactics to combat this love/hate relationship to leave us with bigger smiles and (hopefully) intact waistlines after the holiday season.

Family Time

I love family meals. I love the people. I love spending time with loved ones who know all my stories and love me for them… but this is also the downfall. Many times family can’t help but bring up the embarrassing or hurtful stories in a way that is meant to be funny, but awakens some old hurt you swore was gone long ago.

After years of this, I have finally found a counter-tactic. Rather than reminiscing about days past, I come prepared with a game to play (a prize is a plus) These help to build our relationships rather than relying on past interactions.  I also bring at least one question to ask each family member- who doesn’t like to be an expert in their own topic or talk about themselves!

Food

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The food at the holidays is nothing less than decadent.  It is entirely too easy to over-indulge. There are work parties, neighbors give cookies, family parties, friends have ugly sweater parties, and the list goes on. With all of this, our good habits from the rest of the year are often thrown out the window and we eat more cookies than we planned, drink in excess, and have just one more helping at dinner.

In past years, I have gained a rather large amount of weight over the holidays which I immediately try and banish with workouts and an endless march of salads in January.

The last 2 years I have planned ahead. When going to parties, I eat a small salad or some veggies before leaving the house. I offer to bring a dish to pass that is low in sugar and high on taste. If the meal is buffet style or appetizers only, plate food instead of grazing and always choose the smallest plate. If seated, put your fork down between bites! Cookies… I haven’t found anything too fool-proof here. The variety is my Achilles heel- I want to try them all! What I attempt to do is take only 1-2 cookies and split them with my husband.

Holiday drinks are often high in sugar and very rich, so I always aim for a glass of dry wine that is easier to sip than drink or a fill a glass with ice before adding any cocktail. Staying hydrated is also key- always have a glass of water at your place in addition to your drink.

Moderation in all things is the goal- with food and drink, you get to have some of the decadence but can keep a modicum of control over consumption.

Holiday Cheer

I am an introvert.  A Meyer Brigg INFJ. Holiday cheer is uplifting and exciting. It provides an opportunity to celebrate and connect with people. It also leaves me feeling drained and wanting to crawl under a rock. As an introvert, self care is incredibly important, so I make sure to sleep enough, mediate regularly, use a gratitude journal, regular adjustments, and remind myself that it is OK to come late or leave a party early.

Holiday cheer can also be a financial burden with gift exchanges and lots of eating out. Understanding what is within budget and what is affordable can be a downer, but will ultimately make holidays more gratifying in the end. No one likes to go into debt for the holidays. Amongst my friends and family, we use white elephant exchanges, games, and handmade gifts to keep the costs down on entertainment.

The take home on cheer is to understand your own limits and respect them. Whether you are an introvert like me- who needs to recover after being social- or an extrovert who thrives on community, it is important to stay within your boundaries.

Who doesn’t love the holidays?! It is a time when we celebrate with loved ones, new friends, and old. By maintaining good practices with family, food, and merry-making- we can ensure that we are healthier at the end of our holidays both mentally and physically.

What helps you survive the holidays?

 

Gratitude… More than just a holiday?

It is upon us! Thanksgiving is in just a couple of short days and, while the original historical background of Thanksgiving is controversial, it remains my favorite holiday. If we look at Thanksgiving in completely modern terms it has become a holiday of excess. Too much food. Shopping instead of family. Capitalism. Overall, it has been a holiday celebrating successful harvest, has been called a holiday commemorating the beginning of the persecution of the Native Americans, has been about a giant rock on the East Coast, getting great deals on shopping, gluttony, and- I am going to propose- Gratitude.

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Gratitude is the main reason Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is a time for family and friends to gather together over a meal (modest or grand) and be grateful for the blessings of the year and for each other. Gratitude is a choice and by choosing to express it, we improve ourselves.

I was reading an article in the New York times about gratitude that cited studies demonstrating that people are genuinely happier when they choose gratitude. Not to mention that the brain, when studied with fMRI actually fires differently for pride and gratitude than with anger or jealousy. This indicates that we have the ability to use neuroplasticity to change our brains to be wired for gratitude.

What could this mean for us!? As individuals, choosing to be thankful and positive means enriching our own lives. As members of society, making this same choice means that those around us benefit from our gratitude. When we elevate the positive, we tip the balance in favor of light.

As the great Martin Luther King, Jr said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

It can be difficult to choose gratitude when things seem dark or hard. I mentioned on Facebook last week, one way to choose gratitude is to remind ourselves. You can use a gratitude journal where you list 3 things you are grateful for each morning. (I like to enhance this with 3 things that I am excited about and also 1 thing I will do for myself that day) Sometimes this is incredibly hard and I fall back on some classic things to be grateful for like family, shelter, education, my silly cats. Other times I am truly moved by the world around me into a place of profound gratitude and I can’t stop at 3. My planner also has a column for “Good Things That Happened” AKA Gratitude!!! If structured journaling isn’t your thing, try creating a list like this that contains things that are positive from your life/week. One of the benefits of writing it down is this: when times are the hardest or things seem to be the darkest, you can look back and see all that you have to be grateful for.

Choosing gratitude is more than a holiday, though Thanksgiving is an excellent excuse to start your practice. If you happen to be at my house for Thanksgiving, on the table is a sheet of brown paper and crayons instead of place mats. This provides an excellent excuse ample opportunity to make hand turkeys or to write down what you have to be grateful for.

I am thankful for so many things and people in my life- I am even thankful for you (whether we have met or not).

The Place Between Breaths

The past week has been a very stressful one for me, personally. I am having a lot of things going on in my family and have been relying heavily upon meditation, journaling, and exercise to elevate mood and keep myself centered. These are techniques learned through trial and error and through many different teachers that have come to be a solid basis of self-support for me.

This would be an incredibly long blog post if I ran through all three, so we will zero in on meditation today.

****Disclaimer****
I have never trained formally in meditation, but I do practice regularly. Scroll all the way to the end for sources of additional information on meditation and resources to help you find your own path.

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Meditation is incredibly easy in concept and difficult in practice. It comes in different forms. It can be guided. It can be mediated by the inhale. It can focus on the exhale. It can even be focused around the space in between the breath- that little moment between inhalation and exhalation where stillness takes place. Below I am outlining 3 of my favorite kinds of meditation techniques.

Self-guided meditation (envisioning your greatest self)

I learned about this type of meditation at the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association’s Freedomfest in 2014. Dr. Joe Dispenza spoke about the power of the brain and about his book, You Are The Placebo. I am about 1/3 of the way through this book and am learning a lot about how we make our thoughts become a reality. But I digress…

Each morning, I take 9 minutes (the time between my alarm and my snooze) and meditate. Before my feet touch the ground. Before I check my email. Before I let the world take me away from the peace of rest. I meditate. I begin by remembering back to a time when I was truly, completely, sincerely joyful down into and out from the core of my being. Once I have that moment, I allow that feeling to surge through my body and make its way all the way from the crown of my head to the tips of my fingers and toes. Thus embraced in a moment of pure joy, I picture my physical self in total fitness. My best self. I choose the facial expression, the shine of my hair, the tone of my muscles- you get the picture. And I let these two things come together. The Joy and the Best Physical Self.

This lets me step backward and see myself as I truly am.

Some days this is incredibly easy and I can slip right into that state of joy and gratitude and wellness. Other days I have just found the joyful moment when the alarm sounds. No matter what, I accept what my practice was and take it forward into the activities of the day.

Meditation with Outside Guidance

A couple of years ago, I did a series with Deepak Chopra and Oprah about mindfulness. It was a series of guided meditations and journaling from Deepak. I had never done meditation guided by another person before- and have discovered that it is a great way for me to get to meditate when I am having a hard time finding my own quiet. Deepak has a ton of meditations (even on Spotify and Pandora) that you can listen to and follow along. He walks you through your meditation from what to do with your feet and hands to your breathing. It is incredibly helpful, especially for the crazy busy type A person. When I am having trouble stepping out of my life and into my heart space, I turn to  Deepak.

“To make the right choices in life, you have to get in touch with your soul. To do this, you need to experience solitudem which most people are afraid of because in the silence you hear the truth and know the solutions.”

– Deepak Chopra

Silent, Breath Focused, Meditation

I am not really sure how to describe this one. Breath focused meditation is exactly what it sounds like. You are aiming to find stillness with focus on nothing except the breath- be it the inhale, the exhale, or the pause. This is not to say that there will be no thoughts in your head and that you have to reach a place where you are totally blank. It means, that we acknowledge the thought and let it pass without our focus. I generally prefer to focus on the space in between the breath because otherwise I find myself trying to control the tide of my breathing. (Type A much?) I have found that this type of meditation does not at all come easily to me and that I do best with it after yoga or a good workout. As though I have to get out the physical energy before I can bring my focus internally. I have also found that practicing in a group/structured setting helps me with breath meditation. To improve my skills in this, I have visited many Buddhist temples for meditation practice.

I still find that I do my best meditation in nature (see the photo at the top of this post). Something about the stillness of the forest makes it easier for me to find my own stillness.

What all of this boils down to is this: We as humans have an incredibly hectic and chaotic way of life. We focus so much external energy that we often deplete ourselves. There are many ways to take care of yourself. Some people schedule resort vacations where they can recharge their batteries with sun, sand, and tropical drinks. Some people work out. Some people camp and hike. I would suggest, though, that we take a second to assess ourselves and make sure that we are taking care of ourselves routinely. Meditation is an excellent way to stay centered and focused.

For years my mom told me that I needed to meditate or at least take quiet time for myself. I brushed her off and coped in different ways. It wasn’t until I was sitting on the floor after work one day crying and feeling so far away from myself that I began to pursue meditation as a technique to come home to me. Now, my husband will sometimes look at me concerned and say, “Have you been meditating lately? You don’t seem like yourself.”

I hope you find something of use in this post that you can apply to your life- or even that it inspires you to research another form of self empowerment and fulfillment. If you want to chat about it or learn more about any of the practices that I do, please feel free to contact me through my website!

Resources:

Dr. Joe Dispenza‘s webpage where you can see his books. I also recommend following him on Facebook!

Some tips on meditation for beginners. They broke this down a lot more succinctly than I could!

Bold Tranquility is a Yoga Nidra meditation designed for women. I have had many patients rave about her work!

Deepak Chopra‘s website for a 21 day meditation experience (I love just about everything he does…)

So many more resources are out there! What is your favorite meditation practice or resource?

 

 

 

Chiropractic Care for Kids

Wait… You adjust kids?

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This is one of the questions I get most often in practice. People are more and more accepting of chiropractic for adults and conditions like headaches and low back pain. In fact, statistically, chiropractic is a top treatment for these things. However, it seems that people are taken aback at the idea of children getting adjusted.

Let me tell you a little bit about pediatric chiropractic.

Why would a child or infant need an adjustment?

Birth is a traumatic process. When you think about it, the last days and weeks of pregnancy the baby does not grow very much, most of what is occurring at this point is development of the lungs and other organs. This means that the baby is tucked into a little ball inside of mom. Then, when labor happens, they are pushed out through a small hole and someone grabs their head and pulls them out. If you have questions, try watching a video of a C-Section.  Often times the birth process causes the upper neck or the tailbone to be subluxated, causing nerve interference. Some more extreme cases result in shoulder dystocia or torticollis.

Subluxations from birth can cause issues with many things such as the latch in breast feeding. The baby’s face may appear asymmetrical or their head always tipped to one side. Others are very subtle and may result in colic, difficulty sleeping, etc. Pediatricians are not trained to evaluate the spine for the subluxation, so it is recommended that parents take their children to a chiropractor to be checked.

As children learn to crawl and walk, they fall upwards of 25 times per day. It is important for them to be checked regularly at this time to ensure that they do not develop subluxations from these falls. The trips and tumbles of childhood often result in muscle tension and imbalance in the spine. Many parents bring their children to be checked on a regular basis during the toddler years. Then child and adolescent sports throw yet another variable into the mix!

How does a Chiropractor check a child?

When I evaluate an infant or child for subluxation, I take a history of the child from pregnancy through present to learn as much as I can about their live- down to food preferences and developmental milestones. In my exam, I check all of the little one’s reflexes and evaluate ranges of motion and balance in the body. The amount of pressure that is used both in evaluation and adjustment is less than you would be comfortable with on your own eyelid. Many babies sleep through the whole process!

What is a pediatric adjustment like?

Pediatric and infant adjustments are very gentle and, like the evaluation, many infants sleep through them. Using gentle pressures and muscle stretches, I restore normal motion to the bones and restore balance to the muscles. Sometimes, I will ask the parents to assist by laying their child on their stomach or holding them while they are adjusted.

Toddler adjustments are always fun to watch. Many children enjoy laying on the table to be adjusted and relax for the whole thing, while others play on the floor and get checked on the move. I always feel that it is important to make sure that kids are comfortable and engaged in their adjustment, so I meet them on their level.

Adjusting little ones is vastly different from adjusting adults. The pace is much slower and it often looks like playing to onlookers.

How do I know if my child needs to be checked by a Doctor of Chiropractic?

Many parents bring their children in to be checked when they exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Spinal or facial asymmetry
  • Difficult latch in breast feeding
  • Colic
  • Reflux
  • Delayed or absent milestones
  • Ear pulling
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Sleep issues
  • Bedwetting
  • Trips and falls

It is important to understand that chiropractors do not treat colic, reflux, ear infections, or other medical conditions. However, interference in the nervous system from subluxations can present in these ways. By restoring motion in the spine and removing the interference, the body has the opportunity to heal on its own.

Looking for more information? Check out ICPA4kids.org or contact our office at SeedOfLifeChiro.com

 

 

Chiropractic as Part of a Healthy Lifestyle

Chiropractic as Part of a Healthy Lifestyle

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I often hear from patients that they are feeling good, so they don’t need to be checked. While I am happy to hear that they are not having pain, I always stress that it is important to have someone assess your movement and your spine a couple of times a year (minimum) to ensure that there is nothing just over the horizon.

Many people associate chiropractic care with low back pain, headaches, or neck pain. What they fail to realize is that many of these things (if not all) are preventable not inevitable. Many times the way that we move in daily life is not biomechanical.

What the heck does that mean? The curves in the spine begin to develop as soon as a baby starts to gain muscular control over their head and lift it up. Crawling and other developmental stages help to build your spine into the shape that it is as an adult. Basically, we are born with a C-shaped spine that develops into 3 distinct curves in the neck, mid back, and low back. Throughout this same process, we also build patterns into our brains that help our muscles support the skeleton in different motions.

Over time through minor and major falls, injuries, too much sitting, text neck, and so much more, our body builds compensation patterns to make up for what we cannot do perfectly. You can live for many years with a compensation pattern before another straw lands on the camel’s back and you have a major issue. This is why you will often hear, “I picked up a pencil and threw out my back!” Odds are it was not the pencil, but the lifting and bending pattern that had been present for many years.

As chiropractors, we are trained to analyze the body and pick out these patterns for correction. I am lucky to combine my chiropractic training with the training in biomechanics and rehabilitation learned in my Masters of Sport Science and Rehabilitation to help you to be as stable and balanced as possible.

This does, however, mean HOMEWORK. I was really happy to think I left homework behind me when I walked across that last stage to get my diploma… but then I learned that the most important homework is not what is on your desk or computer. It is the corrective exercises that are assigned to retrain your brain and your posture. Chiropractically, I can perform an adjustment to the spine or to a joint and normalize its motion; however, if you return to doing things exactly the way that you have always done them it will just go back out of balance.

My main goal is to have my patients not need me for pain relief but to get checked periodically to ensure that their home exercises are still appropriate, that their body is holding its balance, and that they are making progress.

Is there something you would like me to write about? Drop a comment on this page or on Facebook to suggest a future blog topic!