In 2003 I decided to try something with my family to keep them active during the holiday season. I created the 25 in 25® exercise challenge. Whoever made it through to December 25 received an extra gift from me. (more…)
The symptoms started with a few pounds on the scale in just a couple of weeks. A few pounds on a 5’2 100lbs ish person is noticeable, and I could feel it. My sleep was horrible, and I was having nightmares. Then, my heart rate started rising. And rising. At rest, my average heart rate is 52. After meditating for 10 minutes, it would be in the 80s. Sometimes while working, it would jump to 130, just standing there at my desk. There wasn’t any explanation for it. I would get super tired and have to go to bed. The last straw was when my overactive bladder issues came back (yes folks, even young healthy women have this) and I was going to the bathroom 12-18 times a day. I knew it had to be a stress-related nerve/brain issue because I'd been tested several years ago. I emailed my doctor and told her something was up. I am very aware of my body, track my macronutrients, heart rate variability, and had even posted this article Worn Out Weary and Tired because I was getting paranoid that my Hashimoto’s Disease was acting up, or worse, I was getting another autoimmune disease. I had labs drawn, and they were stellar. I cut my fluids to 30 ounces, and it didn’t change anything. Nothing I was doing seemed to be helping. It took an unexpected crying session for me to make the connection.
Low Information Diet
I expose myself to very little news intentionally. Just three minutes of negative press in the morning affects happiness levels 6-8 hours later. I listen to the New York Times The Daily podcast every morning and NPR in the car during my short trips around town. I hardly read any news on social media and feel like I stay up to date enough on my low-information diet. But the Kavanaugh hearings were inescapable. Every morning while I was running or making my breakfast, The Daily would have a 20-minute recap. The morning I heard her speak about the thing she remembered the most, the maniacal laughter, stopped me in my tracks on the greenway. I felt claustrophobic and couldn’t breathe. I felt her pain because that’s what I remembered too. I remember the laughter of the two boys holding me down in 5th grade and the smile on the face of the male teacher who watched the entire thing. I remember the incessant taunts of the boys in junior high and high school, commenting about my (then) 36 DD breasts. I remembered the teenage boy on the DC metro in 2003, during rush hour, groping me while I was yelling at him to stop and no one came to help me. Most of all, I remember his laughter. It was the most chilling and haunting sound I’ve ever heard. A couple of days later I was explaining to my husband how terrible I felt that people were making fun of her and discounting her testimony because I also could remember the laughter and I started crying. This was totally unexpected. I thought I was over the incident. I thought I was no longer bothered by it and had overcome it.
Fast forward to hearing it get even worse, not that the President mocked her (because I’ve come to expect that from him), but that the crowd laughed along with him. And when that crowd laughed at her, they laughed at me. I started feeling panicked. I stopped running on the greenway for over a week because I became anxious and scared. They were the ones who didn’t help me on the metro. They were the ones turning their backs, except now they were laughing while doing it. I remember the exact moment when I had the aha that these symptoms were indeed real, but that I wasn’t sick, at least not in the conventional sense. I was listening to an interview with a woman who had gone to that rally and thought what he said was funny. She felt like Dr. Blasey-Ford, and all the other #MeToo women should get over it. Her commentary was so ignorant, in the true sense of the word, I was dumbfounded. I could not control my emotions the previous two weeks. I was having symptoms to the point I thought I was sick. I was not seeking attention, nor was I out giving a rallying cry. Even after knowing this, I unexpectedly started crying in a coffee shop talking about the hearings with a friend.
Once I realized the connection, I was able to start feeling better. The news moved on to climate change, Saudi Arabia, and voting rights. I took a weekend trip to Asheville. Then I saw this video by Delta Rae and after doing the ugly cry, decided it would only make me feel better to write because unfortunately, this is not uncommon. This isn’t new and some of us can’t just ‘get over it’. This post is not a political statement. It’s a real-life story of how stress symptoms are real. So real that I thought I was sick. So real that I went to the doctor and convinced myself I was falling apart. So real that I know that taking care of myself means writing this blog post.
I try not to answer “how are you?” with “I’m tired,” but today, I have three times because I am dragging-my-ass-barely-keeping-eyes-open-not-safe-to-drive tired. And three times, no one has believed me. Most of the time, I have more energy than the majority of people. I wake up early, work out, rock my tasks and facilitate coaching sessions all day and am still in a good mood when I go to bed. But every once in a while, something rears its ugly-soul-sucking head. Is it my Hashimoto’s Disease? Is it poor quality sleep? Or the how-is-this-even-possible high levels of pollen in North Carolina? When there isn’t a way for me to determine why it’s hard to know how to fix it or take care of myself. If I don’t get to bed at a decent hour or have to wake up earlier than I want, it’s obvious. If I have eaten junk food that doesn’t serve me or too much sugar, my own fault. If I have a cold, well, sometimes that just happens. But what about those other times and why don’t people believe me?
I don’t need sympathy, but I do want validation.
“Well, you’re tired is everyone else’s normal, so I don’t feel sorry for you.” Yep, I’ve heard this almost word for word, twice. I find myself every once in a while faking it when I feel less than stellar, but usually only when I have to be on my game during coaching calls and that’s not inauthentic, but focusing on my clients and acting as if, hoping that I get out of the funk. It’s been two days in a row of this low-energy drain, and my heart-rate variability was even off today. I haven’t slept well, also though I practice good sleep hygiene, I laid down for 20 minutes, but couldn’t take a nap. In fifteen minutes, I have to leave for a Discovery Session with a potential client and then attend a networking event, which I invited ten people to and will need to be Chief Connector. Times like this scare me a little because of my autoimmune diseases.
I get a bit nervous because if something were to start getting out of whack, I remember how long it took to get taken seriously the first time. I spent four years trying to convince doctors something was wrong with me, but because I wasn’t overweight, raced competitively and looked healthy, it was always dismissed, in my head or the worst, attributed to depression (and I wasn’t). I know it’s paranoia and these spells never last more than a few days. I may even regret writing this, look back and think “Girl, get it together!”, but here’s the thing… If you have chronic low-energy or know you could feel better and no one is listening, don’t stop talking until you find someone that does. If you have an autoimmune disease or something else you have to manage, it’s natural to get nervous. I hear so many stories of people like me, who took way too long to get diagnosed. If you are that person that everyone draws energy from, it’s okay to get in a funk every once in a while, just don’t let yourself stay there.
Three days later.
I went back to finish this post because I was too tired to finish it in the first round. I’m having a few good days. I don’t know what caused this downtime, but it did trigger a conversation with my husband about my two biggest life fears 1) being attacked or assaulted again, and 2) getting diagnosed with another autoimmune disease. I have to be careful that I don’t get hyperfocused and cause myself to become sick or look for symptoms that aren’t there. It’s a learning curve, behavioral shift, and mind trip all at once. There isn’t a call to action for this post. I’m not sure if there’s even a lesson, but if you have a disease or ailment that throws a tantrum, how do you handle it and keep it from sucking you down emotionally and decide not to live with the anxiety? What’s the balance between awareness and living without fear?
UPDATE: I most definitely was NOT ok. Read this post to find out what I learned.
Wake up, sleepyhead!
It’s not even lunchtime yet and you’re fading fast on us. Guess you shouldn’t have stayed up until 2 AM binge watching that one show you found on Netflix you can’t seem to remember the name of right now, huh? Why is that, anyway?
Because you’re tired. Lack of sleep – or falling into the terrible clutches of what’s known as “sleep debt” – is one of the biggest hazards facing productive worker bees in the capitalist hive some of us were born into.
When you’re sleepy, you’re not going to feel up to the task of tackling the endless flood of paperwork that the working world’s axis spins on. Instead, you’ll feel like crawling up into a ball, praying for the world to go away for just a few more hours.
Trust us. We’ve been there – and it’s not a fun place to visit. Being tired at work not only puts a damper on your mood, it affects the people around you as well.
Your co-workers (or, worse yet, your boss) are more likely to come up and do that annoying thing where they ask you if you’re “feeling okay”. Ugh. The nerve of them.
Why is it that a good night’s sleep (which is described in great detail in the Sleep Advisor), is so important to have a productive day at the office? Being big sleep fans ourselves, we decided to look further into the matter and come up with a list of ways that an adequate amount of rest makes you more successful in the workplace.
It repairs your brain.
Did you know that sleeping repairs your mental processes and cleans up your neural pathways? Yes, there are good reasons why we absolutely have to go to sleep at night, and this is one of them.
According to Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, co-director of the University of Rochester Medical Center's Center for Translational Neuromedicine in Rochester, N.Y, sleep is necessary to clean out the toxins and unnecessary memory information from the brain.
“The brain only has limited energy at its disposal, and it appears that it must [make a choice] between two different functional states — awake and aware, or asleep and cleaning up,” Nedergaard was quoted as saying. “[It’s like] having a house party. You can either entertain the guests, or clean up the house, but you can't really do both at the same time.”
And we all know that a messy house isn’t welcoming for all your friends and their plus ones, now
When you get a decent amount of mandatory unconscious time in at night, your brain will be more open and susceptible to the programming – er, the data that you need to absorb in order to function properly at work. Makes sense, right?
People will like you more.
Take it from us: being grouchy isn’t cool unless you’re a cute, fuzzy puppet who lives in a trash can. This is especially true in the workplace, where your colleagues are more likely to pick up on your, um, “negative aura energy”, man.
Getting better rest will make you charismatic, which means you won’t be a lot less likely to glare at people around you without actually meaning to. A study performed at the University of Washington discovered that tired people are more likely need to participate in what’s known as “emotional labor” – i.e. faking emotions – which turns other people off.
Being an “emotional laborer” expends a great deal of energy, especially when you’re trying to appear happy or excited. “Surface acting” is the most common type of emotional labor.
Otherwise known as “grinning and bearing it“, this is the state where you are insisting that you’re ”fine“ to people when, in reality, you feel like pulling the covers over your head and wish they’d stop asking you how if you’re feeling okay.
So if you want to seem less crabby and more naturally charismatic at work (and not snap passive aggressively at your team member in an email chain), 6-8 hours of nice, restful sleep will benefit you in the long run.
It helps you out physically.
Sleeping more doesn’t just help your brain out in the middle of the night when you’re off wandering around somewhere in the land of slumber. It also helps your body take care of itself physically. It also boosts your immune system, keeping you healthy and less accident prone due to fatigue or lack of focus.
Sleep also reduces cortisol, the hormone that causes stress, which will tax your body as well. The less of that you have, the fewer deadlines will seem to be like the apocalypse to you, and the better you’ll feel when you’re plugging away at whatever it is that you do at work. (We don’t want to assume anything.)
That’s all we’ve got for you now. We hope this will encourage you to get to bed on time tonight for once, you crazy party animal.
This is a guest post from Sarah Jones of Venice Beach, California. She loves yoga, meditation, cycling and walking her dog Monty by the sea…or rather, having him walk her!! She has a mild obsession with anything related to sleep, which is what she blogs about regularly and is often chastised for poking her nose into her friends’ sleeping habits. She now knows better than to tell her image-conscious friend that she looks “a bit peaky” before asking her what she typically eats as a bedtime snack! Sarah takes her own advice on board as much as possible and has been laptop-free in bed for the past year. And she’s never slept better!
Did you know that your chemically-concocted, boxed frozen delicacy that says it’s healthy is setting you up for sabotage? What the heck is a whole food anyway? Isn’t it just a grocery store chain?
The terms whole foods and clean eating are buzzwords that are becoming diluted in the same way that Paleo somehow can mean energy bars (did they make those back then?). The definitions are blurry and vary from person-to-person, company-to-company. Instead of worrying if you are eating ‘clean’ (because really, who wants dirty food? #HygieneIsImportant), think about buying and eating food in its natural state. If it comes in a box, semi-cooked, with sauces already over it, it wouldn’t be considered a whole food. It’s more likely a chemical concoction and has been subtly or not so subtly processed to make it easier to digest.
What’s the problem with easier to digest?
We eat more of it.
Food scientists know that if food is already broken down, we’ll consume more. They often contain high levels of sodium, sugar, and additives that increase flavor. A study by Barr and Wright in 2010 found that energy expenditure after eating processed foods compared to whole foods decreased calorie burn by 47%.
Eating processed foods, DROPPED your calories burned by 47%!
If you want to gain weight or put on pounds, it’s simple. Eat more highly-processed foods. Even with the number of calories, you will gain more weight eating 100 calories of a french fry than 100 calories of a baked potato. You’ll gain more weight with 100 calories of white bread than 100 calories of millet or quinoa. You’ll definitely eat more applesauce than you would apples because it’s been broken down and more comfortable to slurp.
Calories in are not calories out. A calorie is a measurable unit of energy, but it’s not processed or used the same in our bodies. I had an engineer a few months ago arguing with me a little that weight loss was simple. Calories in = calories out. He wasn’t open to hearing about how foods are digested. Fiber requires more work, therefore, less easily-absorbed. More passes through our body without sticking around (on our hips and butt). Processed food also doesn’t feed our gut microbiomes the same as unprocessed. The microbiome of an individual is now hot research because of the link of good gut bacteria to a healthy weight and lack of some bacteria linked to obesity, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and mental illness.
Raw starches are digested less through our small intestine. We may only get about two-thirds of the total calories. Even a starch that has been cooked and cooled has less digestible enzymes, i.e., resistant starch, so your body will not process as many calories as if it is hot right out of the pot.
If our guts don’t have to work hard, we’ll eat more food. That’s why you can down a bag of Cheetos and still want to get your orange fingers on something substantial.
Much like a child should know what a real chicken leg looks like, and that they don’t have fingers or planks, we should know what vegetables look like before they’ve been cooked, mashed or beaten to a pulp. I grew up in a house where plants barely existed and didn’t know what most veggies looked like in their natural state (I still can’t tell the difference between a rutabaga and a turnip when I buy them at the same time). When my nieces come to visit, I’ll be taking them to the Farmer’s Market to see all the foods out on tables, before we’ve put our hands on them to eat.
Green beans and Brussels sprouts are actually crunchy, not mushy.
Potatoes and carrots come in different colors – orange, purple, white and red.
Peppers taste and look different depending on when they were picked.
But who has time to wash, chop, and prep? Start small. Frozen veggies and fruits are often just as good as fresh. Sometimes even better, because they are frozen at their peak of ripeness. As long as they aren’t sugared or syruped to death or tossed in some kind of fake cheese-food sauce, they can work.
Buy fruits and veggies already chopped up on the salad bar or at the grocery. Yes, it’s more expensive, but so is medicine, buying new, bigger pants, and doctor bills.
Try one switch in the next 30 days. Those six crackers that come in plastic, that you grabbed from a box, that came in another box, and still probably a bigger box, could be substituted with something that you could have picked, pulled or peeled off of a tree, vine, or root.
What food do you commit to changing from a processed to an unprocessed state?
Are you a liability to your company and to yourself? Are you a vacation martyr who feels like even a few days off will be too much to catch up on when you get back?
Project: Time Off discovered half of Americans leave vacation time on the table. Americans forfeited 212 million days, which is equivalent to $62.2 billion in lost benefits and a donation of an individual average of $561 in work time to their employer. Not only do you donate to your employer, but you also take away from someone else’s job. Those 700 million unused days could have generated 1.9 million jobs!
It hurts companies more to have to pay out vacation in cash than to have their employee take the time. It also hurts them in productivity, creativity, and engagement at work. Seventy-five percent of HR Professionals report that employees who use their vacation perform better than those who don’t.
We need time off.
Employees coming back from vacation note increased creativity and problem-solving. You may come up with a solution you’ve been struggling with for months, or even a new idea for a business. Did you know that one in five startup ideas came while on vacation? I know my documents stored in Dropbox are happy about this. (Invented while on vacation!). Also, holidays that involve travel, rather than a staycation, tend to result in greater happiness, so get out the door and go somewhere new!
If you are a supervisor or HR professional, please encourage your employees to take their time off. They are happier and less likely to leave their jobs. Require it as some companies do. Your business will be better for it.
Consider sabbaticals after so many years on the job. Reward employees who take all their vacation with a little bonus to spend, since even a 5% cash incentive isn’t going to come close to what they will be contributing regarding productivity when they come back.
How to make that vacation even more worthwhile? Make disconnecting mandatory. Lock them out of their email and create a nuclear policy that only in the event of an equivalent atomic meltdown, should those on vacation be summoned or communicated with.
I vow not to be a martyr.
Let’s not be martyrs or expect our employees to be martyrs. July 16 starts my 5th year in business for myself. I’m going to experiment with a twelve-week cycle, taking one full week off each quarter (disconnected) and giving my employees the same. I got the idea from Shawn Blanc, who does 8-week cycles, which I’m not entirely ready for yet. I was already experimenting with workcations in Mexico, which have worked out well, but I want to expand that even more. Knowing that we have this quarterly push to get projects done and will be rewarded at the end, is exciting (and a little scary). I believe it will be even better for my clients since I’ll come back with new ideas and to give even more energy than I already do.