Trust in Kauai – Zip lining.

Living my zip line dream on our Hawaiian vacation taught me to trust.

Living my zip line dream on our Hawaiian vacation taught me to trust.

Zipline Solo photo

“Just keep walking until there’s nothing under you, then sit down and enjoy the ride” I waited ‘til last in line,  grabbed the strap with both hands, took a deep breath and walked off the platform at 10,000’. A hundred shades of green, mountain peaks, ponds and waterfalls lay below me, but I was too busy trying to steer and land feet first to notice them on that first run. Bundy told us later that was the highest point on Hawaii’s garden island– Kauai. I was zip lining! Whoo Hoo!

The gear felt surprisingly heavy at first, but I was thankful for every ounce when it carried me. “Keep your hands off the cable! Only hold the strap, not the metal clip above it. Just relax into the harness. It will hold you.” Bundy told us. “Steer with your knuckles. Turn them toward your knees. Feel the tension like steering into a slide when driving on icy roads.” Good advice, but how do they know about icy roads in Hawaii?

My word for 2014 is Trust. What a way to push off for the year! Letting go at those heights? Yes, I was shaky, and grabbed the strap as if my life depended on it– well, it did. But that strap and harness would hold even when I let go. My energy was better spent enjoying the view and the experience.  That’s my take away for my Trust year.

The first run was the shortest. They got longer, lower, and more fun when I remembered to exhale and relax into the ride.

We had a great group—lots of laughter and encouragement. The young couple always made perfect landings; experience was with them. Margaret and Bill from South Bend and I took photos of each other, soon to be shared between us. Jean and Walter quickly picked up the steering strategy.

John knew what to expect because he had done the same runs a few years earlier with his daughter. While we waited for the shuttle, he honored me by sharing their story. She would have been with him again, had she not passed a few months ago. This time he dropped a lock of her hair on her favorite run. My heart goes out to their family.

Randy was our strong and very upbeat Hawaiian “catcher”. I panicked on my first run when I came into the platform backwards, but soon learned he “had my back”.  Trust feels great. I felt no more fear, just exhilaration at actually being there and fulfilling my dream.

By the fourth run, I let go of one hand, and finally drank in the breathtaking view. Steering didn’t matter anymore. I wanted to remember this first zip line experience. My husband chose the ground tour so he could get some great photos, which we are enjoying now. I hope we will come back and zip line together. Now to Hang Loose for the rest of 2014.

 

 

 

 

Digging for Hope

Colors wink at me today where monster weeds and tangles of roots drowned my spirit just over a month ago. My garden brings me hope for a fresh start.  A couple of years ago I was climbing out of post-chemotherapy fatigue when the snow disappeared. This year our snow hung on well into May— ramping up our excitement to celebrate spring. I can count on the garden to give me the boost I need after low times. It’s a special gift to my spirit.

Clearing flower beds of choking weeds and roots felt personal for me. Uprooting weeds satisfies something primal in me. I love liberating the garden from invaders. Do I sense an urge to clear paper piles? Oops, this might be contagious…

We relished trips to garden centers. The pungent smell of moist earth greeted us. Our senses swam with all the textures and colors; fuscia, blazing red, indigo, happy yellow, and stark white. Let’s see, which ones did well last year in the shade?  Sun? and which perennial plants made it through our hard winter?

Digging in the dirt calmed my monkey mind. Rich, freshly composted soil under my fingernails signaled my connection to the earth. Clean black soil seemed to restore a peace in my soul. ..

Time in my garden has become an active meditation for me, accompanied only by birds’ songs. Silence is healing. My cancer-prevention medication brings on drenching sweats—on non-humid days. Now, with high humidity, dripping sweat and sore muscles, my body protests. The work is a stretch, but it  feels good, because I know beauty and joy will follow. Finally in mid July, dozens of shades of green set off the parade of color in our 6 gardens. I’m outdoors first thing in the morning and last thing at night, drinking in the freshness and smells of summer. Fireflies sparkle and surprise at days’ end.

Weeding and coaxing my garden back to life is an annual ritual I trust. It’s even more meaningful now that the cancer is completely gone. Not long ago, I ripped open a new seed packet and retrieved just one seed.  Carefully tucking it just below the surface of the soil, I covered it with a bit more soil and watched and watered it in my sunny window garden—planting for the future. It’s amazing, really, that new life will spring from that.  A few weeks ago, I planted the whole tiny pot in my garden, and it’s already growing fast.  Now the tiny plant is ready for “real life” outdoors. New beauty, new hope. Another miracle, just like each new year in my blessed life. Thank you, God!

Where do you find hope? I’d love to hear about it!

Thanks for stopping by!

Sandi

© Sandra Sunquist Stanton MS, NCC, LPC, BCC Connections of the Heart LLC
 For additional articles and information, visit www.ourbrainbuddies.com or send an email sandi@ourbrainbuddies.com

 

Getting Restful Sleep Naturally

It's better together.Rumble strips jolted me back from drowsy driving on my afternoon commute.  The sun and hum of the road had lulled me into a trance after I sat down for the first time all day. The bridge rail came way too close for comfort. Guess I need to get better sleep at night.

 

A study recently released by the National Sleep Foundation cites 27% of adults are sleep deprived. Another of their studies cites 1/3 of American adults are losing sleep over the economy. Most of us struggle occasionally, so I’ve personally tested steps to make falling asleep easier. Here’s what worked for me:

1. TV and internet before trying to sleep

Our eyes, ears and brains are very active while we’re focused on electronic screens—translating pixels and sound bytes into thoughts, pictures, emotions and words.

Some even fall asleep with the TV on. That light blocks the brain from relaxing into the deep sleep that restores the body and brain.

Many people choose the printed page or e-reader instead. The words stay put, and our imagination supplies the pictures. Cool-down time for eyes and brains helps us relax and drift off to dreamland. You’re on your own if you choose suspenseful novels.

2. Consider Circadian Rhythms

During seasonal changes—especially this year– many folks struggle with fatigue. Our body’s circadian rhythms—or body clocks–take some time to reset when we switch to Daylight Savings Time. Traveling through time zones and getting up with children also compromise consistent zzzz’s. The body’s systems work better when they know what to expect.

3. Pump it up early

Walking, Pilates and Yoga keep my Fibromyalgia under control most days. When I miss stretching, my body protests. On days when I don’t get enough exercise, particularly outdoors, I have trouble falling asleep. During and following activity, the heart pumps oxygen and nutrients to the body’s cells, which then seem happier—provided I don’t overdo it. If I exercise too close to bedtime, I have trouble wind down. Returning to a resting heart rate takes time after a workout, so I pump it up earlier in the day.

4. Be gentle

Raiding the fridge before bed? Choose carefully if you’d like to sleep well. Sending more than 400 calories to your digestive system before going to bed is asking for heartburn and wakefulness—for many of us. That pizza or big bowl of ice cream doesn’t work for most folks. Something light with carbs might help set it free to rest.

5. Easy Does it.

During sleep, the brain sorts and files all the experiences and information we’ve packed in during the day, saving the important stuff and discarding the rest. If we go to sleep still chewing on regrets or worries, that filing job doesn’t stand a chance.

Just when a good night’s sleep seems urgent for a clear head the next day, I can count on waking up in the middle of the night. The insistent message gets stuck in my head: Get back to sleep!  You don’t have much time…sleep fast!  Shift the focus… I’m glad that I’m at least I’m getting some rest. Thinking positive and listing blessings instead of sheep might work. After 20 minutes of struggling to fall asleep, try getting up and doing something else for a little while. A magazine or journal might help clear the chatter and clear the way for some real rest.

6. One muscle at a time

Progressive relaxation usually helps too. Lying flat in bed it’s easy to scrunch up one set of muscles—say the head and face—hold it with the breath, then completely relax on the exhale. Every muscle in the body communicates with the brain. Moving through the body with this process sends a clear signal to the brain to let go of the day’s stress.

These tips could also rescue our mental health and relationships. We become impatient with ourselves and cranky with everyone else when our brains don’t get enough deep sleep. Processing all the day’s information and emotions is the brain’s main job while we turn the thinking off.  It’s busy choosing what to keep and file into long-term memory, and what to toss. Without enough sleep to clean up the “filing cabinet”, my brain feels as cluttered as the top of my desk looks.

Waking up naturally refreshed is priceless. The new day has so much to offer when we can be fully present and tune in to all the details. Creating a sleep routine that works best for you can be challenging, but your body and brain will thank you.  Who knows, family, colleagues and friends might wonder what you’ve been up to. How does an oatmeal raisin cookie and small glass of milk sound to you?

Check out these websites for more specific information to be your own best sleep detective:

www.sleepfoundation.org National sleep foundation offers tips to help establish a sleep routine.

www.webmd.com Web MD provides links to other websites for additional tips and sleep aids.

© Sandra Sunquist Stanton MS, NCC, LPC, Connections of the Heart LLC
 For additional articles and information, visit www.ourbrainbuddies.com or send an email sandi@ourbrainbuddies.com

Max Your Mind with Humor and More

It's better together.What a great group of good sports! Thanks to each of you for your enthusiastic participation in the crazy brain coaching activities we did at UWEC’s 25th Annual Sr. American’s Day March 19, 2013

Without regular “workouts”, our brains slow down and don’t serve us so well. It doesn’t show up in body measurements, but we definitely notice the “fade”.  We know about crossword puzzles, Sudoku, brain training software. But did you know that just laughing is a wonderful brain workout?

Every time you hear a joke:

  • The language center on the left side of your brain makes sense of the words.
  • The message then crosses to the right side of the brain where the right frontal cortex activates stored emotions and social memories.
  • It then shuffles the information until it clicks and you get the joke.
  • Next, a structure deep in the brain pumps out dopamine, a “reward system chemical” that makes you feel good.
  • Your brain stem near the base of your skull makes you laugh.

(Adapted from “Just Laugh” by Pam VanKampen of Northern Area Agency on Aging)

That’s a lot of activity for the split second it takes to laugh at a joke. How about making it a body work out without the joke?

Laughter Yoga’s been around since 1995, there are 8,000 Laughter Yoga clubs across the world. Now it’s sweeping our nation because it works out the body’s muscles, our breathing systems, and especially the brain. You don’t even have to have a sense of humor, it uses no jokes or comedy. Groups of people do simple exercises, make eye contact with each other, begin with “fake” laughter, and soon genuine laughter takes over. Someone said they feel as good after Laughter Yoga as they do after a good cry. Endorphins flood the brain connections, and everyone has a great time. In Eau Claire, Jodi Ritsch M.D. will be starting a new season of classes next summer in their new center. For details, go to www.LifeByDesign.com.  Jodi says, “If you can breathe and laugh, you can do Laughter Yoga.” You Tube examples can get you started with some friends or even by yourself. Give it a try!

Humor Heals! Research studies detail many cases, including Norman Cousins’ where people successfully beat their ailments through humor and nutritional support. Cartoons, jokes and funny stories work more of your brain than simply reading. It can tune our minds, help us learn, and keep us mentally loose, limber and creative.

Seniors at our workshop listed their top 20 sources from “Good Old Days on TV”that they turn to when they need a good laugh:

I Love Lucy, Carol Burnett, All in the Family, M.A.S.H., Smothers Brothers, Dick Van Dyke, Seinfeld, Howdy Doody, Sheriff Bob, Art Linkletter’s “Kids Say The Darndest Things”, Bill Cosby Show, Jackie Gleason, Honeymooners, Three Stooges, Little Rascals, Amos and Andy, Red Skelton, Jack Benny, Laurel and Hardy, and George Burns.

Reaction was mixed on slapstick, but it was fun remembering together.

The “real” Dr. Patch Adams tells us, “We have to get people laughing because:

  • It provides balance in people’s lives
  • It helps people cope better
  • It helps them stay well

Laughter is powerful!”

Some thoughts for the road…

“Each humor event you experience makes you grow a little bit…the brain has expanded and taken on new connections.” William Fry, M.D.

“Humor is something that causes a tickling of the brain. Laughter is invented to scratch it!” Hugh Foot

What makes you laugh?  How about the grandkids?

 

Sandi

 

© Sandra Sunquist Stanton MS, NCC, LPC, Connections of the Heart LLC

For additional articles and information, visit www.ourbrainbuddies.com or send an email sandi@ourbrainbuddies.com