To Exercise or Not to Exercise…

runningSo I’ve had a lot of questions about exercise lately and what you should do when you have an autoimmune condition. So I thought I would share my not-so “expert”, based on experience, opinion. 😂

I think exercise is as bio individual as is food. What works for one person may not work for another. This is an area where it really pays to be mindful of your body and it’s responses to what you are doing. Listen to your doctors and consider what they tell you. But also, no one knows your body as well as you do. So when you are taking part in an activity, really be mindful in the moment and pay attention to what your body is telling you. Most likely, you will have a gut instinct as our bodies are very good at telling us what they need, if only we listen.

If I had to give you my own opinion of what you should do, it would be something like this: If you are in the middle of a flare up or you are in the process of trying to heal, I would definitely dial back what you are doing. As an example, if you are someone who runs marathons and is training multiple times a week with long runs, you might dial it back to running 3 to 5 miles a couple times a week.  If you find yourself at the gym for a couple hours at a time, five to six days a week, doing several high intensity type workouts, maybe you dial it back by only being there for an hour, three to five days a week.

In evaluating your own situation, there is a really important question I would ask yourself. It’s not necessarily how often are you exercising, it’s

how often are you balancing your exercise with something that is grounding or centering?

In a more scientific way of saying it, how often are you balancing your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) by triggering your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS)?

You have to understand that when you exercise, it is a form of stress on the body. Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But, when we are in a state of stress all the time, that’s when it can be detrimental to our health. So, if you are someone that has a very stressful job, several kids that you are running around, you’re exercising multiple times a week, running errands between appointments and/or practices, you are stressing your body all day long. That’s when it becomes a problem. Add in any financial, career, relationship, spiritual, or other struggles and now you’ve got a recipe for staying in, or triggering, a diseased state.

When you are in a state of stress, you are triggering your SNS. This system is designed to take all of your energy resources and put them in the areas, like your muscles, to help you flee from danger. Think back to very early human days when danger was keeping yourself alive from the tiger chasing you. In this state, there is decreased blood supply to the gut and an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure. Being in this state on a frequent, or all the time basis, can be harmful.

We also have another system called the PNS. You will often here this referred to as the rest and digest system. When it is engaged, there is an increased blood supply to your gut which increases digestion. When you are in a parasympathetic state, your body is in a healing state. When you have an autoimmune condition and are dealing with a flareup, you want to be in the parasympathetic state as much as possible.  And even if you are a healthy individual, it is still just as important to have a healthy balance between these two systems.

So when we talk about exercise, not only should you ask yourself how much stress are you putting on your body with the type of exercise you are doing, but, how often are you balancing that out with something that triggers your PNS?  How often are you doing grounding, centering, and/or relaxing activities like yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, taking a bubble bath, reading a good book, or in my case, watching the birds at my feeders? If you can’t say that you are doing an activity that triggers your PNS as often as you are doing an activity that triggers your SNS, then I encourage you to push yourself out of the comfort zone of your normal routine, shake things up a bit.  Ask yourself what you enjoy doing that relaxes you and maybe look into meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises.  Your body will absolutely thank you for it!  And who knows…you might just lose those extra few pounds that won’t go away.

 

If you need help balancing your exercise, your work/home life, or your stress, reach out to me here!  I would love to help you!

 

Are You Meditating Yet?

So meditation is one of those things that I thought I could never do. Let’s face it, in this day and age, we are always on the go, nonstop from one place to another, with 1 million things to do. Not only am I physically doing 1 million things, but my mind is as well. How could I possibly meditate?!?!

My mind is going nonstop all the time and quite frankly, it’s one of my worst enemies. It’s what tells me that I can’t do something, that I’m going to fail, I’m going to get sick, I’m the worst mom, this is going to be a bad day, what if I get lightheaded in this store and pass out, where’s the nearest bathroom, what if I have to get up in the middle of church and leave, what if one of my little girls has a serious illness, what if I’m the last one to finish this work out, what if, what if… WHAT IF.

One would think that with all the craziness in my head, meditation would be a no-brainer, easy solution for me. But it hasn’t been. I’ve always used all those thoughts in my head as a validation of why I couldn’t meditate. You know, the normal excuses… “There’s no way I could sit for that long.” “There’s no way I could quiet my brain like they want me to.” “I think too much.” “I have more important things to be doing.” “I don’t even know where to begin.” Those excuses made it very easy for me not to do it. And honestly, I just had no desire.

But, over the last 6 to 9 months I’ve been learning a lot, way more than I even knew I could. I’ve also been experimenting with healthy foods and different lifestyle changes. As you know, I have Hashimoto’s and I’m trying to heal my thyroid. I’ve learned tons of things but one of the things is how much stress can play a part of chronic illnesses. Meditation is one of the ways, one of many I might add, to help relieve stress and quiet your mind. One of the symptoms that comes along with Hashimoto’s, at least for me and many others, is anxiety. We all know how crazy our minds get when we are anxious. Using meditation to learn how to acknowledge those thoughts, not fight them, and then move on from them, is huge in creating a more peaceful environment in your head.

So I began a meditation practice. I have to say, I’m still at a point where I kind of fight myself on doing it. Just because I still have the urge to do other things. There is still that thought in my head about how I could be doing so much more, that there are other priorities. But, what I have learned, is that when I meditate, it changes the rest of my day. I can’t really even begin to describe some of the ways that meditating affects how I see situations differently. My day is more peaceful, my mind is more calm, and when situations occur that would otherwise normally get me fired up, I’m able to maintain more focus, clarity and peacefulness to get through them. It doesn’t mean that I don’t ever get angry, it just means I’m able to see the situation differently. It’s kind of like the “cup’s half full or half empty” scenario. It opens up my eyes and allows me to come from a place where my cup is half full.

Meditation also helps rejuvenate me. If we go back to the example of the cup, it’s so easy to have little things happen all day long that pick away at your cup. It’s almost like it has a leak and it’s dripping constantly. Sometimes not only is it leaking, but someone might come along and knock it over, thereby losing a lot at once. When I meditate, it’s like my cup is filled back up. I’m ready to go again.

The best part about meditation for me is the quieting of the mind. I’m learning how to not get frustrated with my thoughts. Instead, I’m learning to acknowledge them, label them as negative or positive, and let them go. And when you have anxiety, there’s something that you aren’t letting go. Learning how to let your thoughts move on is huge in helping to relieve your symptoms. I’m very new at meditation, but one thing I look forward to, is continuing the process of learning how to let the thoughts go. What a huge relief for my anxiety that will be!! I’m already practicing some of the techniques when I get anxious. And I’m already seeing positive results. I can’t wait to see what happens as I continue my practice.

If you aren’t meditating yet, I hope that I’m persuading you to either do it, or at least consider doing it. My personal favorite app for meditating is called Headspace (and they’re running a GREAT deal right now!).

https://www.headspace.com/buy/newyears?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=917256436&utm_content=51529947492&utm_term=238573809545&headspace&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI7I2z9uDz2AIVg7bACh1GHwBdEAAYASAAEgJA__D_BwE

I have to admit, I’m a voice person and sometimes voices that are used for different apps annoy me quite a bit! I love Andy’s voice and find it perfect for meditating. I love what I am learning and find it easy to carry it over into my day. And when I was worried I couldn’t meditate for a long time, it was a relief to find out that my first 10 sessions would only be three minutes! I don’t care who you are, what you do, but you have three minutes to better your health. Headspace also has multiple packages that you can do relating to health, jobs, sports, all kinds of things! It even has little mini versions that you can do if you only have a couple of minutes and need to refresh. Have kids? It even has meditations for them! We use them at my house and they are awesome! I can’t speak highly enough about this app and I can’t encourage you enough to get out of your comfort zone and try to meditate.

If I’ve not convinced you, or you need more information, check out this article on the many ways meditating can improve your life.

https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/5842870

If you are interested in taking steps to improve your health, would like support along your health journey, feel free to reach out to me!

StacyRawlings@mac.com

I would LOVE to help you! There is always light at the end of the tunnel, you just have to start taking the steps to get there. Until next time…