I enjoy being part of a Google+ Community called Hypothyroidism Help created by Dr. Forrest Beck, a naturopathic physician, author, natural health expert, and currently the Health Team Leader for AlMansoori Specialized Engineering in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. He is author of the book Cultivating the Fine Art of Selfishness. I invited Dr. Beck to write a guest blog post for Hypothyroid Mom.
In the spirit of the various holidays that speckle our globe this time of year, I would like to say thanks; first, to Dana for asking me to write a guest article for all of you, her audience and extended family. And secondly to thank all of you women and men who continue to toil, despite sometimes overwhelming odds in finding answers and even simple acknowledgment for what you live with on a daily basis. I truly do stand in awe at your ability to form communities, help each other, and persevere in search of improved health.
With that in mind, I hope to accomplish one goal in this article. In it you will find no mention of magic supplements, recommendations for thyroid medications, or novel therapies currently being developed. Instead, the focus will be on lifestyle modification. Why? Simple. Never before have we as a human race been given so many tools that spare us of back breaking labor, yet simultaneously throw us out of sync with our natural biological rhythms. Look around and what do you see? Perhaps it is a growing list of social functions you feel pressured to attend, gift shopping that must be done, cards that need to be mailed, television programs that leave you feeling less than adequate, emails to reply to, and Facebook comments you feel you can’t neglect.
But, given all my business travel of late, let’s pull back a minute to take the 30,000 foot perspective. For a great deal of the population and likely Dana’s readers, this time of year is winter, which means shorter days and longer periods of darkness. If you were out in nature on a camping trip, for example, it wouldn’t be long before you would not only observe the phenomenon of winter, but also adopt behaviors that more closely mirror her.
The sun sets and the soft glow of a fire serves as a centerpiece for conversation, songs, stories, and of course meals. Stars would canvas the sky connecting you with the vastness of our universe and something bigger than yourself. As the moon crosses the sky and activities wind down each person migrates to bed for a dark, deep, and restful sleep in a cool environment.
You begin to stir as sunlight filters through your tent penetrating the thin skin of your eyelids. Your body is stiff from the cold, crying out for the core-warming effect only activity can provide. You rise to gather wood, prepare a fire, and then cook a warm meal that will nourish as well as serve your energy requirements for the next several hours exploring new trails.
Now before you rush to judgment please realize you don’t need to become a camper. Heck, you may not even like camping and would rather cozy into a comfy chair to read a book or watch a movie. That is fine. I’m not asking you to stop everything and go camping, though unplugging for a while may be exactly what you need.
In today’s light-flooding, technology swarming, round-the-clock information-accessible life we live, is it so hard to imagine we all may benefit from stepping back a bit – not in terms of a return to the Dark Ages, but definitely in terms of how our days and nights transpire and what we find value in.
And in particular around the holidays we behave in exceedingly unnatural ways eating in excess on a regular basis, attending events that leave us sleep-deprived and maybe even hung over from alcohol, sugar, or both, and finally stressing about money, gifts, and having enough energy left in the proverbial tank to come out the other side ready to tackle a new diet and exercise regimen in January.
The truth is that you or a loved one does have a thyroid condition of some sort, which means the following:
You have a finite amount of time.
You have a finite amount of energy.
You have a finite amount of emotional reserve or tolerance.
You have a finite amount of hair.
And therefore, only you know:
The time you have to get things done.
The energy available to meet your basic needs.
The things that set you off and make you happy.
The byproduct of stress left lying on your shower floor.
This brief article is an attempt to show you the benefit of simplifying your life. It is my firm belief that as technology continues to play a more significant role in your life you will need to become more careful and vigilant with how you dictate its use.
So, this sets the stage, but what do you actually do now? It is quite tempting to launch in to a long list of suggestions that although transformative, may leave your head spinning. Rather than contribute to your stress in that respect, allow me five tips I find have the greatest impact on creating a positive and more healthful lifestyle.
Go on a news fast. This may have the most potential to help you out of any of the tips below. Why? Mostly because news today is downtrodden, joyless, unnaturally repetitive, not to mention sensationalized. Let me give you an example.
My wife, five-year-old son, and I recently returned from a trip to Cairo, Egypt. If you type in Cairo to any news website you will likely be scared to death to ever venture into this “war zone.” Yet it is nothing like television or government websites portray. Do problems arise there? Absolutely. But, traversing the city many times, visiting the museum on Tahrir Square, and riding camels among the Giza pyramids never once hinted at danger, aside from the Cairo drivers, as they truly are some of the craziest I’ve seen.
A news fast will almost immediately calm your senses, encourage deeper breathing, enable sounder sleep, and help you carve out more time in your day for greater pursuits. If there is such a significant event that occurs you will undoubtedly hear about it through a plugged-in friend who can’t disconnect from the Matrix.
Say no thank you a lot more than you currently do. This is a luxury you may not have as much at work depending on your job, but you will be surprised how rewarding saying no can be. You don’t have to be a curmudgeon either, but if your default is saying yes to anything that comes your way, you will find your mind and body pushing back in ways that are very uncomfortable. Fatigue is only one face to this coin. Headaches, heart palpitations, insomnia, heartburn, anxiety, low libido, and depression are a few of the gifts provided to a Yes person with finite reserves. Busyness does not equal happiness. In fact it pushes out time for self-awareness, self-reflection, and therefore a greater ability to be your genuine self.
Be more selective with your friends and family members. This suggestion has the tendency to be taken as cold-hearted, mean-spirited, Grinch-like and probably meets the greatest resistance when suggesting it to clients. But, let’s pretend for a moment you have a child and are trying to arrange a get together with a small group of new acquaintances. Your daughter is excited and hop scotches around the park with her new friends like she has known them for years. But a mother of one of the children is constantly yelling at her daughter and gives her a spanking several times in the two hours that the kids play together. You notice the confused and frightened look on your daughter’s face each time she hears her friend’s mother approach. Twice when you are in conversation with another parent this same woman reprimands your child for something trivial – play date finished.
There may be all kinds of opinions about this story, but my bet is that most of you as parents would not want your child to be subject to these influences, despite how well the children get along. Maybe you even form a splinter group after discussing the subject with the other moms.
However most adults are not nearly as careful with removing toxic relationships from their lives. Why? It is usually too uncomfortable and laborious. But imagine the sigh of relief you would breathe, the freedom of movement you would discover when not exposing yourself to verbal spankings, condescending tones, and pessimistic baggage from other adults. There is nothing quite like it. And remember it is commonly said you are the average of the five people you hang around the most. Who is factoring in to that average? What is the quality of their character and integrity of their actions?
Scrutinize your social media time. There is no denying social media has many fantastic, revolutionary, and life enhancing qualities. However, utilized in excess and you may lose clarity of cultivating a life around you that is also meaningful. The good and bad about social media sites is that they are very easy to use, which means you may run the risk of crowding out time you should devote to moving more, preparing healthy meals, and engaging those you care about.
Two suggestions related to this are the following: one, rather than peppering your day with Facebook, Twitter, online communities and the like, set aside a finite window of time once or twice a day to interact with your virtual friends.
The second suggestion is to select communities that truly support the culture you need to move in a positive direction, whether with your health, finances, work life, or hobbies. We all need forces in our life that help us when we fall, and success reaching a goal is much more likely to be achieved through the help of a coach, mentor, or general sounding board. Choose accordingly.
Help yourself first. It is extremely tempting this time of year to give, give, and give even more of you. But, seeing thousands of patients over the years there is one clear recipe for failure and that is self-neglect. You cannot sustainably help those you love and care about without focusing on your own needs first. If that means opting out of a holiday party to catch up on sleep or taking some “me” time then you have to do it. Holidays are rife with the idea of devotion and service to others without regard to your own sacrifice. As nice as that conventional wisdom may sound please understand it is ill advised. You can contribute and help others but not when you are struggling to keep your head above water. You can volunteer to host Christmas dinner, but not when you collapse for three days to recuperate. You can take part in a charity drive wrapping presents for six hours for children whose parents can’t afford gifts, but not when your joints swell so badly for the following two weeks.
We all have choices. And every decision you make will either move you closer to what you are trying to accomplish or farther away. But, anyone who truly cares about you would not ask or require something of you that worsens your circumstances.
My hope for you this season is that you create an environment that more closely mimics the pulse of nature. Similarly, that you realize it’s okay to say no. That it’s vital to be among people and communities that don’t create strife in your life. That the virtual doesn’t bog you down. And lastly, that you recognize health starts with you. There is no supplement, pharmaceutical medication, diet, or exercise regimen which can overcome a lifestyle out of flux. I wish you a fulfilling journey in achieving a healthier and more wholesome life.
Dr. Forrest Beck is a naturopathic physician, author, natural health expert, and currently the Health Team Leader for AlMansoori Specialized Engineering in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. If he isn’t inspiring others to take control of their healthcare through his online communities, he is doing so in person via speaking engagements and consulting. His book, Cultivating the Fine Art of Selfishness, is a practical guide re-orienting individuals towards self-care, before caring for everyone else. Learn more at www.drforrestbeck.com.