Archive for the ‘Stress’ Category

Life has a way of doling out unexpected circumstances for all of us. They arrive in many different forms, often compounding one another—among them disabilities, job layoffs, financial challenges, relationship matters, and many others. Health issues often bring them all at once, along with all the adjustments required in new roles as a caregiver, guardian, sole provider, single parent or all of the above.

In my own life, until I experienced the super tsunami in 2004, there were certainly always hurdles to overcome, but fairly manageable. Before then, by using the same strategies I wrote about and presented to audiences for creating a life filled with purpose and daily jolts of joy, wonderful things kept manifesting by walking that tried and true path focused on intentions to create positive outcomes, harmonious connections and embrace optimism, among other core beliefs.

I had long resonated with these beliefs “walking my talk” for bringing my heart’s desires into reality. I fully expected it all to keep on flowing and couldn’t foresee how they would truly be put to the test in my early 50’s. However, the Universe had totally different plans and sent a tidal wave of uninvited circumstances, undoubtedly to test my coping skills, core beliefs and values, and to open my eyes to new realities.

In 2004, life in the harmonious zone spun me in directions never, ever imagined, and I tried my best to keep my footing while weathering a tidal wave of unexpected changes. My husband of 27 years became suddenly and mysteriously ill at 59 with a neurological condition conventional medicine couldn’t explain, which transformed him into a stranger, setting me on a long quest of discovery. Mainstream medicine didn’t recognize all of his symptoms were related to chronic inflammation impacting both his body and brain. Gone were all his beloved traits and calm demeanor. I didn’t know how to handle all the bizarre, behavioral changes that both frightened and confused me, without answers from doctors as to the cause of them all or how to handle them.

A year later, that quest finally led to a doctor, Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, a leader in biotoxin illness, who though his functional medicine evaluation, identified Rick with an autoimmune disorder, toxic encephalopathy, a result of chronic inflammation for those genetically susceptible. His therapies provided relief, helping Rick return to an improved quality of life, but that became dependent over the years on the open-mindedness of some of his treating conventional practitioners. Some refused to follow my requests for treatment, or accept the biotoxic diagnosis, and treated him solely with medications for psychiatric conditions which never really resolved his brain issues, and later learned they were actually detrimental to him.

While I was in the midst of adjusting to my role as caregiver for my husband, my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer and I became her caregiver, too. It soon became obvious she was suffering full-blown, cognitive decline around the same time I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. So, my head and heart were spinning in so many directions and I was frazzled, frustrated and chronically stressed in dealing with it all.

It was only what I eventually learned about the roots of Rick’s maladies that I realized through genetic testing that both had a similar predisposition (and  testing revealed so did our daughters and myself!), estimated to affect 25% of the population making us all poor detoxifiers and especially vulnerable to biotoxic exposures, from mold, insect bites and other agents.

Mom and Rick suffered a wide range of symptoms from their long-term, biotoxic exposure,  causing chronic inflammation and autoimmune issues, which were never properly evaluated nor treated by mainstream medicine. Fortunately, this would be discovered through functional medicine, and only due to a synchronistic connection.

Both would die years later from all the complications of their bodies gone haywire, suffering the consequences from our conventional healthcare system not yet prepared to properly evaluate or treat estimated millions of cases related to root causes of toxicity, genetics, nutritional deficiencies, imbalances, and other agents flaring inflammation.

Through this 12-year journey, I learned about caregiver exhaustion, of being on call constantly to handle the unpredictable . . . of witnessing torment and feeling helpless to offer relief. . . letting go of countless expectations. . . feeling guilty whenever I felt impatient, the continuing need to shift priorities in my then, very messy, disorderly life, among countless other lessons. Indeed, it was a regular reminder that resisting what was couldn’t change a thing and just made it worse. Life became overwhelming at times, requiring a total redirection of my energy, focus and priorities.

At times, I was both angry, frustrated and admittedly selfish. With all the doctor and hospital visits, countless trips to pharmacies for medications that didn’t have much effect, on-call for all needs, especially when inflammation was flaring so much pain and brains doing things never imagined, and sorting out endless stacks of paperwork and bills, I no longer had much time to do much of anything I enjoyed which I had long taken for granted. Writing, among them which always served to feed my soul from digging down for the truths within.

Instead of writing about ideas to include in my presentations, books or blog, most of my writing was in the form of regular emails to doctors about new or continuing symptoms I observed in my husband. I hoped these might serve as clues as to what had robbed him of his personality, his brain, his health, and our relationship because I was desperate for answers. I lived in a perpetually crazy world and I was losing myself in the process.

One of the biggest challenges was keeping my own sanity when two loved ones had lost theirs, and dealing with all the chaos that often swirled about threatening to steal my peace during big chunks of time. What ultimately did make a difference was remembering self-care—to dig down in the midst of all the angst, to the beliefs I had long ago taken to heart—the same ones I had shared during my presentations, my sanity savers for the heart and soul which echoed right to my core, and I needed to hold fast to them, more than ever.

I survived these periods of desperation and despair, sometimes moment-by-moment, by remembering to focus on the right thoughts to offer resilience and strength instead of those mental companions invited to my “pity parties,” which would only spiral down and zap my much needed energy to sustain myself and everything else required during this uncharted journey.

In the midst of this unwelcome siege of my heart and soul, I missed so much from my former life, especially of feeling truly happy. I knew happiness was an inside job, so if my life was to improve, which I desperately longed for, I had to take responsibility. I knew the right thoughts were lifesavers, and consciously had to remember to shift them, time and time again, to the ones that would serve me best. This was not easy when just about every day the unexpected arrived and had to adapt to that ever-changing rhythm.

I accepted help from others, my life savers, a network of friends, acquaintances and even strangers, who volunteered to take on tasks in service. They lifted my spirits and lightened the heaviness of my heart.  I began carving out slivers of time doing the things that I loved to do in spite of all the concerns that were never entirely chased away. I hosted gatherings to celebrate life, even as messy as mine was, but it was my life nonetheless, and being surrounded by those who lifted my heart and fed my soul. I re-discovered joy in the process and was forever grateful for all the support that carried me through the darkest times of my life.

For twelve years, a roller coaster ride whipped around lots of emotion, twisting and turning my heart and my hope, sometimes rising up with optimism and other times, free falling down, then circling back again to hope—this was indeed life in perfection, messy, raw and real.

As with most of life’s challenges, we usually can’t see the reasons why we’re having to experience them, yet in retrospect, they often reveal a most vital and significant purpose. So it is with the discoveries uncovered through my own journey—of the lessons learned not only for the heart, but other perspectives regarding health, wellness and well-being vital to all of us and why I’m re-launching my blog. It’s a needed story now, to support the mounting cases of inflamed bodies and brains which are its casualties.

Through this confusing, harrowing journey, my eyes were opened to today’s scary realities now impacting all ages. Those suffering from similar mysterious ailments may soon be spared being misdiagnosed, thanks to recent research uncovering root causes related to many of today’s maladies, along with therapies offering hope. With mainstream medicine’s adaptation of this research which has become part of the growing science of functional medicine, more patients will be able to circumvent the prospect of the heartbreaking, tumultuous journey of neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune disorders, brain issues and others connected to these same root causes.

With content of this blog focused in support of wellness and well-being, posts will also include perspectives on navigating the elusive states of harmony and happiness amidst the challenges of our own respective journeys. Its purpose is to awaken readers to the potential for transforming health and wellness destinies grounded in hope, and the possibilities offered from those perspectives.

In reorganizing my communication files tonight, bulging from years of researching and presenting Get Along programs, I came upon a button that reads, “I’m not bossy. I just have better ideas.” Know anyone who wears this invisible message and then complains of lack of cooperation? Indeed, it’s a big communication crusher when somebody tunes out or invalidates our opinions.

People need to feel they’re being heard and their opinions honored. When our ideas are discredited, it often crushes feelings of capability, makes us angry and creates bad connections. Criticizing or negating ideas can be deadly because it violates our universal need for respect. Think in terms of honoring both egos and ideas. For instance, when someone says, “That’s a really dumb idea!” it gets very personal because their ideas are being discounted and that stirs up a range of responses from anger to embarrassment. Keeping face keeps productive communication flowing. Providing a reason for your perspective instead of any inflammatory remarks allows others to have a better idea where you’re coming from. A face-saving alternative that avoids personal attacks would be,“That idea would cost an extra $50,000 which isn’t in our budget.” This focuses the issue on dollars, not egos.

Resistance sets up polarities—the more you resist, the more others push back and hold firm in their positions. Likewise, the greater the acceptance you express, the more flexibility they will feel, since you’ve honored their need to be heard and respected. You don’t have to like their ideas, you just need to hear and respect their thoughts.

Some responses instantly evoke antagonism, contempt, or animosity, all putting respect in jeopardy:

ž  “Do you really know what you’re saying?”

ž  “You’ve got to be kidding!”

ž  “Oh no, that would never work!”

ž  “Do you know what a stupid idea that would be?”

ž  “You can’t really want that!”

ž  “You can’t be serious!”

ž  “You’re crazy! You want what?”

ž  “Don’t be crazy … ridiculous … stupid … !”

ž  “You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

While you may be tempted at times to fling those phrases when others might deserve them, that won’t get what you likely want–less stress, teamwork, greater harmony, and cooperation. Providing an opportunity for a healthy exchange of ideas creates a safe environment to explore creative solutions, build respect and cooperation.


This morning I received one of those friendship emails, how the bond of friendship sustains us through life’s twists and turns, celebrations and challenges of life, and passed it on to those who have done exactly that. Then, an hour later, I got a call from a dear long-time friend, cancelling her birthday celebration tomorrow, having to deal with the crazymaking throes of her mother’s dementia living hours away. A disappointment because we don’t get to see one another often enough, but more importantly she needs a big dose of R & R because her stress level is tipping the scales in the danger zone between her mom’s care issues, son’s job search and work overload.

Times like this call for more than a Facebook update status. What undoubtedly would help in boosting sagging spirits is a”cappucino connection,” that utterly delicious blending of friends coming together to share a slice of time (and maybe something chocolate to take away some of the stress and heartache)—in a bottomless cup of comfort that lingers long after the last drop. Read the rest of this entry »

Many of us in the Washington DC metro area are still without power, days after the ferocity of Friday’s storm put millions of us in the dark. It perfectly coincided with record-breaking heat. No power + record heat = long days of misery and nights without any flickers of light. This is a ripe opportunity for dealing with “what is”, when unexpected events slam into your life requiring adaptability and some serious attitude adjusting.

Take away our electricity and our lives are instantly changed–far beyond the creature comforts of staying cool when it’s sizzling outside, keeping refrigerated  foods fresh or out of the dark when light is desired. Every time I forget what I don’t have and flick a switch out of habit, it’s a gentle reminder of gratitude for the things taken so much for granted. Living in a plugged in, wired up world of convenience, instant accessibility, work from anywhere, efficiency and countless other ways, what a lesson in adapability and attitude adjustment when it all goes kaput! Read the rest of this entry »

caregivers, AlzheimersChances are, you know someone or quite likely many now, who have been stricken with the debilitating and life-changing impact of dementia. It produces a wide range of stresses and strains upon their caregivers, often family members unprepared for the the anguish it produces.

The disease is escalating, claiming a new victim every 68 seconds. Until you experience a loved one whose brain no longer works the same affecting memory, personality, grooming, independence, and exhibiting behaviors that are so unlike your loved one, it’s hard to imagine the countless ways the quality of life diminishes for them and the toll of the stresses and strains upon the caregiver.

A few startling statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association 2012 Facts and Figures report:

  • One in eight Americans age 65+ has Alzheimer’s.
  • By age 85, nearly half will have the disease.
  • Today, 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and over 15 million family members and friends provide their unpaid care.
  • By 2050, as many as 16 million will have the disease and the number of unpaid family caregivers will soar to 45 million.

I have many friends who are currently in the throes of caring for parents or spouses with dementia, and dealing with the drains and stresses from all of its challenges. I know it well, too.  Years ago, I was the caregiver for both my mother and husband whose brains were both ravaged by deterioration. It’s a constant battle of facing a continuing series of unexpected events that often require you to handle ultimately alone, and even with a support network, the extra burden become your responsibility.

Through caregiving, you’re provided daily lessons of patience, compassion, and acceptance, along with coping with the potential for sheer exhaustion. Most importantly, your own reservoir of self-care must be replenished or you’re at risk of developing burn-out or illness and that has a domino effect, and vital that you support your own well-being. Fortunately, the Alzheimer’s Assn. has launched a social networking community, ALZConnected, for anyone impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. It provides a safe place for people to connect with others in similar situations to communicate, pose questions and offer solutions to dementia-related challenges, and create public and private groups organized around a dedicated topic.

If you are facing this challenge, get support and join the conversation at

Stress Got You Down?

Posted on January 12, 2012 in [Attitude, Health and Wellness, Stress]

Got stress? Feeling frazzled? Chances are, you’ve got plenty of reasons. Stress quickly descends upon us when life comes at us fast or grinds away and wear us down from heavy loads, especially without receiving much respite.

Unexpected situations that assault our sensibilities is one form, as my daughter experienced last Saturday while celebrating her birthday with friends upon discovering that her new purse, wallet and jacket had been stolen.  Undoubtedly, at the moment of discovery, the stress response kicked in with the realization of what it all meant and everything she now had to do–reporting stolen credit cards, thinking about all the scheduled credit card payments that would have to be updated, changing locks, “doing time” at the DMV to get another license, replacing keys and the countless items stashed away in a purse.

Then this morning, I received news that a friend’s car had been broken into for the seventh time in less than a year, and two days back-to-back!  For sure criminal assaults take their tolls in many ways, robbing us of our stuff, not to mention our serenity, but more commonly, we’re increasingly assaulted with feelings of too many responsibilities, competing priorities, unexpected events, interrupted plans, or any number of self-imposed expectations that breed chronic stress, all with the potential for creating a  noticeable toll upon our health. Read the rest of this entry »

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